Announcing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1) Community Technology Preview 4 (CTP4)

Last Thursday, we released SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1) CTP4. Both the Service Pack and Feature Pack updates are available for download on the Microsoft Download Center. While CTP3 was primarily targeted at introducing the BI functionality for Office 2013 Preview and SharePoint 2013 Preview, CTP4 covers SQL Server functionality across the board.

SQL Server 2012 SP1 CTP4 continues to extend the momentum built in CTP3 and brings additional customer value through the following deployment and performance updates:

  • AlwaysOn Availability Group OS Upgrade: With the release of SQL Server 2012 RTM the operating system upgrade story for AlwaysOn customers without taking significant downtime to perform a data migration does not exist. The reason behind the problem is that Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 do not support an upgrade of clustered servers from previous versions, because of incompatibilities between the cluster versions.
    SQL Server 2012 SP1 provides customers a compatibility solution to do Availability Group migration from a lower version of Windows Cluster to a higher version of Windows Cluster. It can help customers to keep their SLA when upgrade their Windows Cluster operating systems.
  • Selective XML Index Performance Update: Selective XML Index solves a longstanding customer performance issue by allowing users to promote certain paths from their XML documents that will be indexed. The update introduces a new type of XML index to SQL Server in addition to Primary XML Index (PXI). The new indexing will improve querying performance over data stored as XML in SQL Server, thus allow for much faster indexing of large XML data workloads and improve on scalability by reducing storage costs of the index itself.
  • SSMS Complete in Express: SQL Server 2012 SP1 Express Editions (SQL Server Express With Tools, SQL Server Express COMP, SQL Server Express with Advanced Services and SQL Server Management Studio Express) will now ship the SSMS feature with functionalities that existed with the SSMS from Full Editions of SQL Server. 
  • SlipStream Full installation: The SlipStream deployment/packaging capability provides customers a pre-built “Slipstream image” consisting of a compressed self-extracting .exe and a ‘.box’ payload file that contains a SQL Server 2012 RTM image (Setup.exe, MSI’s, etc.) along with the most recent Service Pack. Previously this capability was only provided with the Express SP packages. As with Express Slipstream, users can exercise the .exe just as they would Setup.exe.

For a complete list of changes in SQL Server 2012 SP1 CTP4 please read the What’s new document and KB article 2674317. Capabilities introduced in CTP3 continue to deliver remarkable experiences in CTP4: 

  • Enable self-service BI as a natural part of users day-to-day activities in Excel 2013:
    • xVelocity integration: The xVelocity in-memory analytics engine that underpins Analysis Services is now natively baked into Excel. Excel users can import hundreds of millions of rows of data from multiple data sources (databases, OData feeds, SharePoint lists, DataMarket, etc.), mash them up together and perform analysis using pivot tables, pivot charts and slicers.
    • Power View integration: In O15, Office users will be able to interact with and report on their data directly from Excel and portray it with stunning visualizations. They can do this using the same tools and experience offered by Reporting Services Power View.
    • PowerPivot integration: The PowerPivot Excel add-in now runs in Excel 2013 and enables Excel power users to model and enrich their data in the xVelocity engine. PowerPivot also includes a new data categorization and recommendation capability and a new improved DataMarket import experience.
  • SharePoint 2013 (Excel Services), included in Office 365, leverages Analysis Services and Reporting Services to enable interactivity, sharing, collaboration and data refresh of workbooks with xVelocity data and Power View reports.
  • Beyond the integration with Office, Power View in Reporting Services got some cool new abilities ranging from a new set of visualizations (map, pie charts), new formatting abilities (backgrounds and themes, images and URL support), Analytical capabilities (Hierarchies and KPI support) abilities, support for over 40 languages were added including right-left languages and many other small touch ups

In addition to these changes, SQL Server 2012 SP1 CTP4 contains a number of security updates and fixes released in SQL Server 2012 CU1 & CU2.

To obtain SQL Server 2012 SP1 CTP4 and the Feature Pack components updated in SP1, please visit the following download pages:

•               SQL Server 2012 SP1 CTP4

•               SQL Server 2012 SP1 CTP4 Feature Pack