Microsoft unveils preview code for next SQL Server

Previews are also slated for "Project Gemini" and "Madison"

Microsoft this week is giving developers an early peek at SQL Server 2008 R2, the next generation of its flagship database.

MSDN and TechNet subscribers got first dibs on Monday; the community technology preview (CTP) will be generally available Wednesday, Microsoft said.

SQL Server 2008 R2 will help DBAs manage large-scale deployments and promote self-service BI (business intelligence), wherein end-users generate their own queries and reports with less involvement needed from IT staff, according to Microsoft.

"New wizards enable administrators to quickly set up a multi-server management environment in minutes -- no professional services required," Microsoft promised in an official blog post. DBAs will gain a range of capabilities for tracking their systems' resource usage and handling upgrades.

Meanwhile, a new version of Report Builder incorporates support for mapping data and "benefits power users that are looking for a more sophisticated authoring environment," the blog adds.

Overall, Microsoft is trying to push BI capabilities -- long the province of only some users due to the software's high cost -- to the masses, by tying them to its widely used SharePoint collaboration platform and venerable Excel spreadsheet.

A limited preview of "Project Gemini," which allows users to perform data analysis from within an Excel environment, will be available this year, Microsoft said Monday.

The company is also preparing to release a private technology preview of "Madison," its upcoming data warehousing platform, which incorporates technology Microsoft gained from its acquisition of DATAllegro last year.

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