The first release candidate (RC) of the forthcoming SQL Server 2019 product can now be downloaded from Microsoft’s Evaluation Center page here, good for 180 days.

“Release candidate” used to mean that Microsoft deemed a product feature complete. The next stage was “release to manufacturing” (RTM), where the bits were considered ready for imaging on machines by hardware partners. It’s not clear what the RC term means now, but Microsoft has gone through nine community technology preview (CTP) releases to get to this point. The RC stage likely signals that an RTM, followed by commercial product release, is months away.

One top feature touted with this release, Big Data Clusters, actually isn’t available with the RC. Update 8/30: a new SQL Server 2019 RC 1.1 “refresh” was released and now “includes bits for Big Data Clusters,” according to a Microsoft August 29 post.

Big Data Clusters allows organizations to deploy “scalable clusters of SQL Server, Spark and HDFS [Hadoop Distributed File System] containers running on Kubernetes,” according to Microsoft’s description. It’s a way of combining relational data with Big Data, which might be used for machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) analyses. Kubernetes, a container orchestration solution fostered by Google, is used with the Big Data Clusters feature to configure the cluster nodes, assign pods and monitor the cluster’s health.

Fine details about Big Data Clusters can be found in this Redmond Q&A article by Microsoft MVP Joey D’Antoni.

Microsoft also is touting so-called “data virtualization” with PolyBase in the SQL Server 2019 RC. It lets organizations query data across Oracle, Teradata, Hadoop Distributed File System or “any other data sources without moving or replicating the data,” the announcement explained.

PolyBase was introduced with SQL Server 2016, which added Transact-SQL querying capabilities from Hadoop, and also the ability to join SQL Server data. What’s new with SQL Server 2019 is that Microsoft added additional connectors for PolyBase that extended this querying power.

Microsoft also added UTF-8 support in the new server. It adds support for data with certain language character-support requirements.

Other features highlighted in SQL Server 2019 include the use of “secure enclaves” for computations on the server side, which keeps the data encrypted. Organizations can also use the “Transparent Data Encryption” scan feature to encrypt data and log files at rest, which is used to ward off unauthorized access.

D’Antoni described more about the security and performance enhancements in SQL Server 2019 in this Redmond article. He offered insights into the product’s Always On Availability Groups, Accelerated Data Recovery and scalar functions, too, in this article.

SQL Server 2019 is supported on “Windows, Linux, and containers and has support for deployment on Kubernetes,” Microsoft’s announcement indicated. Specifically, it’s supported on Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu’s distros. There’s free Java support included for SQL Server 2019 users via Microsoft’s partner Azul Systems’ Zulu Embedded product, as Microsoft explained back in July.

Microsoft’s overview of SQL Server 2019 features can be found in this “What’s New” document

Sep 2019