SQL Server 2016 announced… and it’s gonna rock

In what spare time I’ve had this week, I’ve been watching the news coming out of Microsoft Ignite (formerly Tech Ed).  SQL Server 2016 was announced during Monday’s keynote.  And it sounds like it will be awesome.

Just a few of the highlights I’m interested in so far:

  • Always Encrypted
    SQL Server has had encryption capabilities for quite some time – except in memory. Always Encrypted is a new feature which promises to allow us to perform operations on data without decrypting it and without storing the key in the database. SQL Server never sees the unencrypted data. For those of us concerned about security, this is a major win.
  • Row-level security
    Other database platforms have the native ability to allow a user to see some rows in a table but not others through permissions. Azure SQL Database finally gained this capability last year, and now it’s making its way into the on-premises product.
  • Dynamic data masking
    Data masking is the ability to mask all or part of the data in a field using Xs (i.e., XXX-XX-XX12 for a Social Security number). This is increasingly important, both from a security perspective as well as a compliance perspective.
  • Improvements to AlwaysOn
    AlwaysOn was a fantastic addition to SQL Server’s HA/DR features when it was introduced in SQL Server 2012, and SQL Server 2014 improved it. SQL Server 2016 will apparently improve this yet again, adding multiple synchronous replicas and secondary load balancing.
  • Native JSON support
    JSON is one of the latest data interchange formats, replacing XML in some circles. I was first asked about SQL’s support for it a couple of years ago – the lack of JSON support was the one thing stopping this person from adopting SQL Server over a competing NoSQL platform. I’m glad that Microsoft is catching up.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft’s posts have mentioned a number of other features, and they said that more will be announced as the release date gets closer.

A TechNet post mentioned that the first public preview will be out sometime this summer. I’m already on the list, and I’ll be testing out some of these features as soon as I can.


Ed Leighton-Dick helps small and midsize businesses solve their most challenging database performance, resiliency, and data security issues at Kingfisher Data, the consulting firm he founded in 2014. He has taught thousands of people at over 200 events, including the world's largest Microsoft data platform conferences, and he has been a leader in the Microsoft data community since 2008. Microsoft has recognized Ed seven times as a Data Platform MVP for his expertise and service to the data community.