SQL Server Denali CTP3 is here, and today I’m excited to be able to talk about this new public preview of the next version of SQL Server.  CTP1 came out back in November 2010, and CTP2 wasn’t released to the public, so this is your first chance in several months to see progress.  Here’s what you want to know:

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1. SQL Server Denali CTP3 Features

Windowing functions – if you’ve ever suffered the pain of doing running totals, the prior or next row, or row numbers inside groups, you’ll love the addition of more ANSI SQL:2008 compliance in Denali.  That’s not SQL Server 2008 – it’s a separate standards organization that comes up with cool ideas for databases, and then it’s up to each vendor to implement ’em.  To read more, check out the Postgres windowing functions help – after all, these are standard functions, and they work pretty much the same in every database.

Column-store indexes (aka Project Apollo) – normally SQL Server stores all of the data for a particular row together.  If you had an index on LastName, FirstName, MusicalTastes, your data would be stored on disk something like this:

  • Ford, Tim, 1970s Prog Rock with Show-Off Drummers
  • Little, Kendra, Indie Rock with Folk and Electronica Thrown In
  • Ozar, Brent, Electronic Trash Sung by Androgynous Characters
  • Peschka, Jeremiah, Angry Noisy Guys Banging on Instruments

Column store indexes store each column’s data together.  I’m simplifying a lot here, but think of it this way:

  • Ford, Little, Ozar, Peschka
  • Tim, Kendra, Brent, Jeremiah
  • 1970s Prog Rock with Show-Off Drummers, Indie Rock with Folk and Electronica Thrown In, Electronic Trash Sung by Androgynous Characters, Angry Noisy Guys Banging on Instruments

The important thing to notice is that the columns are stored individually.  If your queries are just doing SELECT FirstName, LastName then you don’t need to read the long, drawn-out musical tastes.  You read less off disk.  This is fantastic for data warehouses, where column store indexes have been all the rage for the last few years.  It’s not perfect for everything, though: for starters, when you add a column store index to a table, that table instantly becomes read-only.  I’ll have a more in-depth post on column store indexes shortly, but for now, check out the Microsoft whitepaper PDF.

New web-based BI tool called Project Crescent – I’m not a BI guy, so I’ll leave this to the BI people to document.  I’m not a web guy either, but I know Crescent is built with Silverlight, and there’s a lot of hullaballoo around whether Silverlight is a dead language.  With *any* new SQL Server feature, I get these nervous twitches wondering whether or not it’ll be around in the next version, so I’m glad I’m not a BI guy here.  I’d be twitching so hard I’d be unable to type.  For more info about Crescent, check out Microsoft’s Project Crescent video.

One more thing…

2. AlwaysOn Availability Groups > (Clustering + Mirroring + Replication)

At the launch of SQL Server 2008, I heard a lot of DBAs whining because Microsoft wasn’t giving them anything cool. 2008 and 2008R2 were focused on Business Intelligence, and production DBAs were left to watch jealously. In 2011, you’d probably expect Microsoft to ignore the infrastructure guys again, because this time around, cloud is the new BI. Every Microsoft employee seems to be chanting the word “cloud” the same way they were chanting “BI” a couple of years ago.

But I’ve got good news.  Really, really good news.

Us data plumbers have a killer new HA and scaling tool: AlwaysOn Availability Groups. It’s so important that some of my clients are already planning their 2011/2012 schedule around the deployment.  In the past, we’ve struggled with combinations of clustering, log shipping, database mirroring, and replication to get the right mix of performance and availability. These tools work great, but using them all correctly requires a lot of training and experience. Microsoft heard our complaints about our lack of talent, and AlwaysOn aims to replace most of the functionality of all those different tools.

In my post “SQL Server Denali AlwaysOn Rocks!” from the feature’s original announcement in November, I covered the main selling points:

  • One primary server with up to four replicas
  • Replicas involve multiple databases, not just one, and they can fail over together
  • You can have a mix of synchronous and asynchronous replicas
  • You can query the replicas (including running DBCCs and backups)
  • Your application can automatically connect to a replica instead of the primary if you’re just reading, not writing
  • It’s built atop Windows clustering (hey, relax, it’s gotten much better)

I believe this one feature alone is going to drive adoption of Denali – it’s just that good. With just a little bit of learning (trust me, *way* less work than replication or old-school clustering) you can deliver an amazing new solution for your users.  SQL Server goes faster with more reliability and less management overhead than ever before.  For more info, read my fresh tutorial on How to Set Up SQL Server Denali AlwaysOn Availability Groups.

3. SQL Server Denali Licensing for New Features

The current version of SQL Server (2008 R2) comes in several different flavors including:

  • Express Edition (free, but limited database sizes)
  • Standard Edition (roughly $6k per CPU socket)
  • Enterprise Edition (roughly $30k per CPU socket)

Microsoft hasn’t stated which cool features will be included with which versions, but let’s have a quick history lesson.  When SQL Server 2008 came out, most of the good stuff was left out of Standard Edition and held back for Enterprise Edition customers.  Customers groaned, rolled their eyes, and didn’t deploy SQL 2008 as fast as Microsoft would like.  After all, 2005 worked, and if they had to pay higher EE licensing fees to get the good new stuff, what was the point of upgrading?

When SQL Server 2008 R2 came out, Microsoft threw us a bone by giving the backup compression feature (formerly an Enterprise-only feature) to Standard Edition customers.  This encouraged adoption at my clients because they could stop paying maintenance on separate backup compression products.

At the same time, Microsoft also threw us the finger by adding Datacenter Edition, a $60k-per-socket license.  Datacenter Edition is a tax on people who can’t write good code and people who love virtualization.  Datacenter Edition lets you use more than 8 physical processors in a single SQL Server.  Do the math, and just 8 processors alone is $480,000, let alone more than 8, so it usually makes much more sense to design your application to spread load across multiple database servers if you need that much CPU power.  Datacenter Edition also gives you unlimited virtualization rights, so you can run as many virtual machines with SQL Server as you want on your VM hosts – a feature that used to be included with SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition.  Hey, that online division isn’t going to fund itself anytime soon.

What does this tell us for Denali?  My guess is that we’ll see more of what SQL 2008 R2 brought us: a subset of new features for Standard Edition customers, extra BI and multi-terabyte-friendly features for Enterprise Edition, and serious hardware horsepower capabilities reserved for Datacenter Edition.

4. How to Download SQL Server Denali CTP3 Free

You can download SQL Server Denali CTP3 here, but there’s a few things to know.

This build will expire 180 days after installation.  In theory, you’ll be able to upgrade CTP3 to the RTM (Release To Manufacturing) build, so you could install this on your production laptop.  In practice, I’m not a big fan of upgrading anything, so I’d avoid this if you could.

During installation, you can choose between Express Edition and Evaluation.  The decisions about which features will be in which SKUs hasn’t been made yet, so you don’t have choices for Developer, Standard, Enterprise, or Datacenter Edition.  It’s just Evaluation, period.  We’ll find out more about what’s supported in each edition as we get closer to the release date.

5. Release Date for SQL Server 2011, 2012, Denali, whatever?

That’s the one answer everybody always wants to know, and I don’t know either, so let’s take our best guesses.

Cool expression not included

Guess the SQL Server Release Date, Win a Prize

Leave a comment here with your guess as to when the final RTM version of SQL Server Denali will be available for us MSDN subscribers to download on MSDN.

The person who comes the closest (without going past the date) will win a 7″ USB monitor.  What better way to support SSMS’s new monitor support than give you a new monitor that’ll bring more screen real estate to almost any desktop or laptop, even Macs?

Rules and restrictions:

  • Entries must be received 72 hours before the official announcement from Microsoft with the actual release date. (This way, if you get a sneaky heads-up from Microsoft at the last minute, your entry will be discarded.)
  • One entry per person. If you make multiple entries, you’re flat-out disqualified.
  • Guess dates only, not times. We’ll discard any times.
  • In the event of a tie (multiple people guessing the same date or same closest date), we’ll randomly draw one winner from them.
  • Recipient responsible for all taxes/duties/bribes. (I’ll ship this anywhere, but what happens when it hits your country’s borders is up to you and your diplomatic capabilities.)

UPDATE – the release date is 4/1/2012, but importantly, the final bits were available for MSDN subscribers at MSDN on March 7th.  We had exactly one winner:

Congratulations, Max Vernon!

Max saw the SQL Server Launch event, which wouldn’t necessarily mean the bits would be available on MSDN that day, but he took a chance.  For that chance, he’ll be rewarded with a new USB monitor!  Great job, Max.

We had several other close guessers, but the funniest was Shawn Melton who put his trust in PowerShell:

That PowerShell Knows Everything

Thanks for playing, everybody! And the real prize is SQL 2012, heh.

Brent Ozar
I make Microsoft SQL Server faster and more reliable. I love teaching, travel, and laughing.

I’m mostly a figurehead here at Brent Ozar Unlimited. My true skills are menu advice, interpretive dance, and reading Wikipedia.
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  1. I’m going to guess October 1st, 2011. I’m not entirely sure why, just seems like a nice date 🙂

  2. I’ll say 11th October 2011, so it coincides with the PASS Summit.

  3. During PASS Summit i.e., during October 11 to 14 in the year 2011.

  4. October 22nd 2011

  5. November 9th 2011

  6. Well since i’ve been told by an high ranking MS person in a public session that the most likely release date is Q1 of 2012 i’ll go with jan 31st 2012.
    Of course they could’ve been told to say that to throw us off. but i doubt it 🙂

  7. Jan 15th 2012 is my guess.

    YAY windowing functions!

  8. RTM on April 1, 2012. With CU1 following by April 15.

  9. I think they wanted to do a Summit release, but they had to push it out. I’m going with Feb 14, Valentine’s Day.

    Now, question for those who have already installed it: does it still muss up your SQL 2005/2008 installs? Can I finally install this on the same machine as those? Thinking specifically the client tools.

  10. Windowing functions ??? Fantastic!
    Itzik Ben-Gan must be extremely glad about it! 🙂

  11. I’ll go with 1st December 2011. Just because.

  12. I will submit 3/1/2012

  13. Since we just bought new licences with 1 year SA a month ago the cynic in me says July 1, 2012.

  14. I’m going to go with October 12th as actual availability date. They’ll likely announce on October 11th, but something will glitch and/or the servers will overload so we won’t get it until October 12th. 🙂

  15. 11/11/2011

  16. The Oracle tells me June 10th 2012.

    Here is the RTM release dates for previous versions:
    SQL Server 2008 R2 RTM April 21, 2010
    SQL Server 2008 RTM August 2008
    SQL Server 2005 RTM January 2006
    SQL Server 2000 RTM November 2000

    So I’m assuming it will be in 2012..No odd years there. I figured the last two where April and August so I would cut the difference with June, since have of 12 was 6, then just decide 10 would work for the day since it was half of 20.

  17. My gut says to go with October 14th 2011 to coincide with the last day of PASS–why not unveil to the SQL Server world. But my true guess is June 11th 2012.


  18. PowerShell told me it would be March 4, 2012.

  19. 11/11/11

  20. October 15, 2011

  21. My guess is: 9 Jan 2012

  22. I going to say Oct 25th 2011.

  23. I’ll guess 2012-01-20. You almost get the 201 pattern to repeat 3 times…

  24. I would go with Nov 17th 2011.

  25. Pingback: SQL Server Codename “Denali” CTP3 Resources « SQL Joe's Blog

  26. My random guess is 2012-03-19

  27. 8th Nov 2011

  28. Dec 4th 2011

  29. November 16th, 2011

  30. Put me in for October 18th, 2011.

  31. I guess the release is January, 13th 2012

  32. July 28th

  33. November 11, 2011 (11-11-11)

  34. I’ll go with November 1, 2011 (11/1/11)

  35. Nov 8, 2011

  36. I’ll take 30-Oct-2011 (my birthday!)

  37. Surely it will RTM during PASS this year, so I’ll say 10/11/2011.

  38. 11/20/11

  39. November 29, 2011

  40. My guess is October 4, 2011.

  41. My guess is October 11, 2011. Thanks for the post!

  42. SQL 2001 … so I’m guessing the marketing people will push for a 2011 date.

  43. doh – typo in previous. should read:
    SQL 2011 … so I’m guessing the marketing people will push for a 2011 date.

  44. I’ll say the day after Labor day! September 6, 2011

  45. My guess is also October 11th 2011

  46. Nov. 11, 2011 (11-11-11)

  47. Oct 31, 2011

  48. I’ll bet on 03-14-12 🙂

  49. October 11th, 2011

  50. 10/12/2011.

  51. September 12, 2011

  52. 11.24.11

  53. My son tells me it’ll be March 2nd 2012.

  54. Pingback: Denali’s New Windowing Functions « 36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

  55. 20th November 2011 and called SQL Server 2011

  56. November 10 2011

  57. 13 December 2011

  58. SELECT CONVERT(DATETIME,0x0000A00700000000)

    Is there a bonus prize for the nerdiest date format?

  59. 12 December 2011

  60. 10 November 2011 (my son’s anniversary)

  61. My guess is 04th April 2012.

  62. 10/11/11

  63. It’ll be announced on many blogs on the morning of the 1st April 2012.

  64. My Guess is 10-Nov-2011

  65. I’m guessing November 3rd, 2011

  66. 14, November, 2011

  67. 9th November 2011 🙂

  68. 20 September 2012

  69. My guess is December 7th, 2011.

  70. 20 February 2012

  71. Will be released on May 20 2012

  72. March 15, 2012 (Beware the Ides of March!)

  73. April 18th, 20112

  74. Will be released on 15th Nov 2011

  75. I’m guessing 3 February 2012

  76. I’m guessing 12/2/2011

  77. I’ll play… Nov 22, 2011… my birthday! 🙂

  78. October 28, 2011 – Bill Gates’ (56th) birthday.

  79. I think, the SQL Sevrer released at 05.02.2012!

  80. I’ll say December 5 2011

  81. 18th Feb 2012

  82. 25 feb 2012

  83. November 18th as my birthday present!

  84. It will RTM during MMS 2012 in April. So my guess is April 16th, 2012.

  85. April 1st, 2012
    and this is not a joke

    • Erm.. not “announced” as written before:
      Release Date for SQL Server 2011 will be the 04-01-2012

  86. 2012-06-10

  87. December 10, 2011

  88. December 6, 2011

  89. November 30, 2011

  90. January 13, 2012 – maybe 😉

  91. 2/18/2012

  92. April 1st 2012

  93. 06/06/2011

  94. 2/8/2012

  95. 3/10/2012

  96. Dec 13, 2011.

  97. 4th October,2011

  98. 25 May 2012

  99. Feb 7, 2012

  100. Its a lot more easier working with it. My guess is 4th October, 2011

  101. 14.12.2011

  102. 10/feb/2012

  103. Gosh, no idea how I missed this guessing game the first time around. Here is my guess:

    June 15, 2012

  104. March 6, 2012

  105. 15 February 2012


  106. 9 April, 2012

  107. 3/31/2012

  108. 1st June 2012

  109. April 12, 2012

  110. 12 August 2012.

  111. Feb 29, 2012

  112. March 22, 2012

  113. 12/15/2011

  114. SQL Pass 2012

  115. MAY 16 2012

  116. March 30,2012

  117. 28th February, 2012

  118. 26 March 2012

  119. 27 March 2012

  120. February 14, 2012

  121. SQL Server Denali RTM

  122. 20120704

  123. I would have to say… June 18, 2012. I would like to think earlier, but we’ve been down this road before 🙂

  124. March/6/2102

    (In BOL it is called SQL 2011 in a few places…)

  125. March 22, 2012

  126. The release date for SQL2011 (Denali) will the the 17th of January, 2012.

  127. April 2, 2012

  128. May 8th, 2012

  129. January 10, 2012 😀

  130. Pingback: Aaron Bertrand : Blogging from the PASS Summit Keynote : Day 1

  131. December 12, 2011

  132. February 22, 2012

  133. May 25, 2012

  134. July 9, 2012

  135. release date: 2011-02-02

  136. June 3rd, 2012

  137. February 29, 2012

  138. Release Date – October 28, 2011

  139. 15th March, 2011

  140. February 13, 2012

  141. February 15, 2012

  142. March 17th, 2012

  143. Release date is expected to 10th March 2012

  144. 10th April 2012

  145. 30th January 2012

  146. April 2,2012

  147. January 21, 2012

  148. March, 1. 2012

  149. Feb 8 2012. On my birthday

  150. 25 Apr 2012

  151. 15th March, 2012

  152. April 4, 2012

  153. 16th February 2012

  154. 21 April 2012

  155. 24 March 2012

  156. Jan 27th 2012

  157. Feb 23rd 2012 !!

    Nice article Brent.

  158. Date is 18 Feb 2012.
    Early 2012.

  159. April 16, 2012

  160. Great article. I can’t wait to see how the new Always On technology will function. My guess is that this product will come out on February 24th.

  161. April 30, 2012

  162. March 5th, 2012

  163. 1 April 2012

  164. March 17th, 2012

  165. 25 March 2012

  166. 20 April 2012

  167. 16 FEB 2012

  168. My guess is 6th March 2012.

  169. It would be mid-end of Feb 2012.

  170. March 20th 2012

  171. ***** MAY 1, 2012 *****

  172. June 1-10 2012 !! I don’t know why I came with that great guess!!

  173. April 24 2012

  174. I think March 12th

  175. April 25th, 2012! Sorry, Yuval, but it’s my birthday

    • I just realized comments are paginated, and Timmie Benhura had already guessed my date. Oh, well. There’s always 2016.

  176. 10 FEB 2012

  177. I think 20 April 2012

  178. Release Date I reckon will be 2012-04-01.

  179. My guess is 5/14/2012

  180. 1st June 2012

  181. 4th May 2012

  182. May 16, 2012

  183. Definitely 8th June 2012 – on my Birthday 🙂

  184. May 18, 2012

  185. It has to be april fools day…1st April 2012

  186. March 7th, 2012 ?

  187. June 4, 2012

  188. Optimistic 27th Feb

  189. 16 April 2012

  190. June 21st 2012 ..I hope will be the release date.

  191. Pingback: Something for the Weekend – SQL Server Links 15/07/11