How about a big dollop of Azure with that database engine? Microsoft opens up SQL Server 2022 preview

The direction of travel is clear – cloudwards

Ignite Be afraid, be very afraid. The "most Azure-enabled" release yet of Microsoft's flagship database has arrived in private preview form at the company's Ignite shindig. Welcome to SQL Server 2022.

Microsoft's SQL Server relational database can trace its roots back to the end of the 1980s and an effort to port Sybase to OS/2. Over the decades it has undergone rewrites, was ported to Linux with SQL Server 2017, and made the jump to the 64-bit world.

Despite its very much on-premises origins, SQL Server 2019 came with Azure-specific features ladled on top, and SQL Server 2022 has very much continued this trend as Microsoft has sought to "meet customers where they are." Ideally, it seems, this is somewhere in the company's cloud.

This time around, Azure integration has continued to be the name of the game, despite a spokesperson insisting that the company had "no plans to discontinue releasing future on-prem offerings."

Indeed, customers have been nudged Azure-wards with features such as Link, which permits the use of an Azure SQL Managed Instance as a disaster recovery site. Want some analytics? How about a link to Azure Synapse? Governance? Here's Azure Purview.

And so it goes on. Much like the .NET that Microsoft insisted on slapping onto its products at the turn of the century, any product seeking to survive and thrive in the company's portfolio must nod to Azure and Microsoft's cloud strategy. Certainly, the approach has not done any harm to the company's valuation.

That said, there are some useful tweaks not confined to Azure. As well making it easier to backup and restore databases from S3-compatible storage, there are some handy changes to the venerable database engine.

Multi-write replication should be smoother with an automated last-writer-wins rule to handle the scenario where multiple users change the same row in a database, causing a potential conflict.

Query Store brings support for read replicas and query hints "to improve performance and quickly mitigate issues without having to change the source T-SQL," according to Microsoft. T-SQL in SQL Server itself has been enhanced, with new JSON functions and Time series support "similar to Azure SQL Edge."

What all this means for the various editions of SQL Server remains unclear. We asked Microsoft if the Linux version would get all the toys arriving on Windows, and the company told us things would be revealed "closer to general availability next calendar year."

It did, however, insist that "we continue to maintain our philosophy of a Common Programming Surface Area for developers across editions of SQL Server."

Unless there's something Windows-specific. For example, FileStream. Despite repeated developer requests, Microsoft confirmed Linux fans would be out of luck for the time being at least. "This is a feature that depends on specific Windows implementation of sparse files," it told us. "Given other customer scenario priorities for SQL on Linux, as of now this is not planned. We will be listening to feedback during the EAP about all scenarios customers may deem critical and evaluate them as needed."

Then again, there is also pretty much zero chance of the code behind SQL Server being open-sourced any time soon. We asked, and Microsoft said: "We have no plans to do so at this time."

The company would also not be drawn on licensing or costs for SQL Server 2022.

Although the amount of Azure in the announcements might muddy the waters somewhat, there still remains a solid database engine behind the scenes. For now, at least. Because the direction of travel on show with the preview of SQL Server 2022 is clear: cloudwards. ®

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