The Microsoft Data Amp event was this week, with a number of SQL Server announcements. We now know this is going to be called SQL Server 2017, which is no surprise. CTP 2.0 was also released, which includes a few improvements, but one in particular caught my eye. Python code can now run inside SQL Server, meaning we are not limited to the R language for data analysis. That’s exciting to me and I think that’s a great change. It’s one that’s been rumored for some time. I like Python, and think it’s a nice, elegant language. My son has been learning it in college and I’ve spent some time playing with it after the SDTIG got me interested with their beginning Python and Data Science modules. Since then I’ve spent a little time learning R, but find it to be a cumbersome language to work within. Having code embedded in a string in a SQL Server stored procedure made things harder, and I kept hoping that Python would be added.
It’s there now and you can play with it. While you might debate whether this is a good use of SQL Server resources, I think for quick, short, specific analysis calls, it’s a good choice. Certainly complex calculations and data manipulations are not always efficient in T-SQL and having another option is great. You’ll want to be careful when you run Python or R code, but these are good options to have. There is also GPU processing support is available to take some load off your main CPU.
CTP 2 is supposedly feature complete and there are more changes than just Python. Tempdb has a better setup experience, we get the first version of graph data and query support, resumable online index rebuilds, adaptive query processing, and more. You can read the announcement, which isn’t heavy on technical details, but gives you an idea of what’s changing. I’m not much of an SSAS person, but there are some enhancements in this platform as well.
There are other improvements and announcements this week. Azure Analysis Services is generally available (no longer beta), as as Azure Data Lake Analytics and Data Store. DocumentDB is improved and some Cognitive Services are GA, and in general, Microsoft is all in on the analytics and deep learning.
The world of data in the Microsoft world is growing and changing rapidly. We’ll have a new version this year, just a little over a year after SQL Server 2016. I expect that we will continue to see more, and new changes, occurring at a rapid pace in the future. None of us will completely keep up and become experts in all areas, but we have lots of options for new learning and experimenting with advanced features. I’d encourage you to take a little time here and there and read about and play with the new features. If you have Docker, you can get a version of SQL Server 2017 up and running without installing anything on your machine to see if there are any changes that might help your organization take better advantage of the data you work with every day.