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SQL Server 2014 hastens transaction processing

Joab Jackson | June 6, 2013
The next version of Microsoft's relational database management system (RDMS) promises to bring immense performance gains to online transactional processing systems.

The next version of Microsoft's relational database management system (RDMS) promises to bring immense performance gains to online transactional processing systems.

SQL Server 2014 will come with a new in-memory OLTP engine, one built with the company's Heckaton set of technologies, first developed by Microsoft Research.

"We're building our transactional processing work in directly into the database. It is not a separate product, not a separate thing to program to," said Quentin Clark, corporate vice president of SQL Server, in a keynote presentation launching SQL Server 2014, announced this week at the Microsoft TechEd North America conference in New Orleans. "We are doing it because it is a way to achieve unprecedented low latency and high-scale throughput for transactional data."

Microsoft has billed Heckaton as an in-memory technology, though unlike other in-memory data stores, such as Oracle's TimesTen, it does not place the entire database into working memory, or RAM, to speed performance. Rather, it selectively moves only the most consulted database tables to memory.

In Microsoft labs, Hekaton has been shown to cut transaction times by 50 times, and customers who have tried early versions of the technology have found a 16-fold percent improvement in performance, according to Eron Kelly, Microsoft SQL Server general manager, in a follow-up interview with the IDG News Service.

In addition to speeding transactional system performance, SQL Server 2014 could also cut hardware costs, because the efficiencies wrought from the new technologies would reduce the computational requirements, or number of servers, to execute a given workload, Kelly said.

Traditionally, each time an OLTP system conducts a transaction, such as books an order for a travel agency, the results are written to, or read from, a row of data residing on a database table on a hard drive. OLTP systems could perform much faster if the database tables were stored in a server's working memory. With most commercial OLTP systems, however, the cost of putting all the database tables in working memory would be prohibitively expensive. Hekaton speeds transaction times through, among other techniques, a more judicious use of memory.

What Hekaton does, Kelly explained, is move the hot data, or data that gets lots of reads and writes, into a server's working memory.

To enable in-memory usage, the database administrator uses a diagnostic application that surveys data table usage and recommends which database tables should be moved into a server's main memory.

The system maintains transactional integrity -- the guarantee that each completed transaction is saved even during a system outage -- by writing transactions separately to a log file.

Hekaton also looks for stored procedures, or queries that are stored for regular use, that would be ripe for optimization as well. The software can identify heavily used stored procedures and can compile them to machine code. Machines code typically executes much more quickly -- and requires less memory -- than code written in high-level languages such as SQL itself.


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