SQL Server 2012 Release Candidate Now Available

Company thanks work of 100,000 testers for their help.

Microsoft has announced the availability of a release candidate for SQL Server 2012.

It seems that Microsoft did not conduct a beta test and instead produced this "feature complete" version of its newest relational database management system (which carried the code name Denali) using feedback from its community test preview 3 (CTP 3). In its announcement, the Redmond software giant credited the work of over 100,000 testers of the CTPs that helped the company develop a "production quality" RC. The new RC, with a version number of zero, can be downloaded here.

The download image contains both x86 and x64 versions; although the software can run on 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems, Microsoft has listed many caveats in its release notes for users installing the release candidate. Microsoft seems to recommend installing SQL Server 2012 RC on a system running Windows 7 Service Pack (SP) 1 or Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 (including the Server Core version), but the installer doesn't verify if those service packs are already installed on the system.

The release candidate can be installed on systems running Windows Vista SP2 or Windows Server 2008 SP2, but a .NET framework update is required to do so, according to the release notes.

The RC requires prior installation of the .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 and .NET Framework 4.0 along with PowerShell 2.0. The SQL Server 2012 installation process won't automatically install PowerShell for users. An overview of the hardware and software requirements can be found in this Microsoft library article.

New Features

Microsoft described several new features last month at the PASS Summit event in Seattle. Since then, a few additional features were included in the RC. One of the new features is an improved AlwaysOn capability. Microsoft's announcement explains that AlwaysOn now "allows customers to experience multiple, readable secondaries for distributed scale of reporting and backup workloads and support for FileTable and FILESTREAM which brings first-class HA [high availability] to complex data types."

Microsoft MVP Aaron Bertrand has explained that AlwaysOn is just Microsoft's branding for disaster recovery and high-availability features in SQL Server, not a new feature. The use of read-only secondaries can provide relief to a primary server by allowing users to run "certain backup operations and all reporting activity against a mirrored copy" of the server, Bertrand pointed out. He added that an important feature in SQL Server 2012 will be able to create "availability groups," which represent a group of databases. Users can set up failovers to move from one availability group to another and this can be done on top of other failover clustering techniques, he explained.

Other new features in SQL Server 2012 include boosted private-cloud multitenancy management capabilities. The database management system now supports 64 resource pools, as well as greater control over CPU use and physical resources.

Power View (formerly known as "Crescent"), which is Microsoft's browser-based business intelligence graphing feature that works with SQL Server 2012, got a few upgraded features, according to Microsoft's announcement. Microsoft also rolled out new "change data capture" support for Oracle in the RC. Microsoft's full list of the new features can be found at this wiki page.

A new version of the free SQL Express solution, called "LocalDB," which is specifically designed for developers, was described back in July. It's available for the CTP3 release of SQL Server 2012, but it's not clear if an RC version is available. Microsoft describes LocalDB as a "lightweight version of Express with all of its programmability features, yet runs in user mode with a fast, zero-configuration installation and short list of pre-requisites."

SQL Server 2012 RC comes with some upgrade and migrations tools. Microsoft explains that users can use the Upgrade Advisor and Distributed Replay tools to test SQL Server-based applications before upgrading to SQL Server 2012. A SQL Server Migration Assistant tool can be used to help move other database solutions over to SQL Server 2012.

Microsoft's SQL Server forum page provides responses to some user questions here. More resources are available at the Microsoft SQL Server community page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.