And so we begin anew. While the wait for SQL Server 2005 took a ghastly five years, Microsoft has blessed us (and, no, I'm not being sarcastic!) with SQL Server 2008 in just three short years.

It probably shouldn't be surprising to me that SQL Server 2008 comes up short in terms of marquee features — the flash and glitz stuff. Yet, what I am surprised by is just how many "little things" have made it into this release. While there are some key feature areas (Policy Based Management, for example) that Microsoft can hang their marketing hat on, the most striking new features in SQL Server 2008 are far more subtle in nature.

SQL Server 2008 is jam-packed with a host of seemingly small, but extremely useful smaller additions such as:

  • New, very useful data types (discrete date and time data types as well as support for geospatial data and hierarchical data representation)

  • The new MERGE command (combining the options of INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE all into one statement, this is sometimes referred to as an UPSERT in other products)

  • A revamping of Reporting Services to allow for far more elegant reports

  • Tracking and availability of "missing" index information (noticing at time of optimization that a non-existent index would have been useful had it been there)

And these are just for starters.

For those of you that have read the 2005 versions of my books, the change toward the separation of beginning and professional level content continues. The real "beginning" level discussion is now ...

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