Interestingly, my favourite new feature of SQL Server 2008 R2 isn't any of the obvious things. You may have read my recent posts about how much I like some of the new Reporting Services features, such as the map control. Or you may have seen my presentation at SQLBits V on StreamInsight, which I think has great potential to change the way many applications handle data (by allowing easier querying of data before it even reaches the database). Next week the Adelaide SQL Server User Group has a session about MDS. There are plenty of really cool things in SQL 2008 R2.
But actually, nothing that appears in any What's New lists are my favourite features of this new release.
My favourite thing about SQL 2008 R2 is in the name. It's the fact that it is an R2. The same product, just the second version of SQL 2008. This means that people who are currently running SQL 2005 should be able to embrace SQL 2008 now (in its R2 form). I keep hearing the "I'm waiting for SP1" line, except that many organisations seem to have missed that SQL Server 2008 SP1 got released last August.
There is a healthy paranoia about data that means that many organisations are often very slow to upgrade systems. This is a good thing, despite the fact that it frustrates database professionals like myself, who would like to see clients upgrade to take advantage of new features. But new features aren't things that can persuade someone to upgrade their currently-working-just-fine-thanks-all-the-same system until many others have tested the waters.
And this is where R2 can come into play. Technically it's a new version, yes – but it's a .5 release. It sorts out a few things, such as Unicode compression, and it adds features that are somewhat peripheral, but on the whole, the product is unchanged – like an overly significant service pack.
So my hope for R2 is that we see a new influx of organisations adopting it. It's very good that it wasn't called SQL Server 2010. That could've introduced a renewed paranoia about the stability of the product, with most people waiting for another service pack (or two) before rolling it out. Calling it R2, and acknowledging the lack of differences in the Database Engine and Analysis Services is in many ways, the best feature of SQL Server 2008 R2.