A third way Hekaton improves performance is by refining the process of locking database tables to write data. Traditionally, in order to avoid overwriting of data midtransaction by another operation, a RDMS will lock a table page each time a row of data needs to be updated. Multiple concurrent reads or writes to a database table can, however, create a backlog, slowing performance.
The OLTP Engine doesn't lock data by pages. "So each process can hit any row it wants, and the only time there is a conflict is when two processes hit the same row at the exact same instant," Kelly said.
Even individual rows aren't locked when they are being written to. Rather, the RDMS writes the updated row to a new location and leaves a pointer to the new location in the old row, where it can be followed by any query that takes place at the same time as the update. Kelly called this technique "optimistic concurrency."
This is not Microsoft's first foray into in-memory technologies. The Microsoft Parallel Data Warehouse uses a similar technology for large-scale data analysis and PowerPivot, introduced in Excel 2010, uses an in-memory compressed columnar processing to parse large data sets in memory. SQL Server 2012 then borrowed this columnar processing technique for its own use.
As an example of how the new SQL Server could speed performance, Kelly explained how a retail chain could benefit from this technology.
A retail store keeps an inventory of all the products on the shelves, which a sales clerk can consult on a computer to see if an item is in stock. This sort of query can take time and sometimes is not accurate, given that the inventory database can only be updated once a day through a batch processing system.
"There's not the performance to update it in real time," Kelly said. "With our OLTP engine, you can update things in real time."
Kelly pointed to one early user of the technology, online gaming company Bwin, which by updating to SQL Server 2014 managed to increase the number of transactions on its SQL Server-based Web application, from 15,000 transactions per second to 250,000 transactions per second. "For them, each transaction is money," Kelly said.
More details will be given about the new features in SQL Server 2014 in the months ahead. A preview of SQL Server 2014 will be available by the end of the month and the full production version will be available for purchase in early 2014.
Microsoft did talk about how it has made it easy for users of this RDMS to use Microsoft's new Azure-based backup and replication services. The SQL Server Management Studio will include the option to periodically back up a database to the Azure blob storage. An administrator can also configure a secondary live copy of SQL Server on Azure.
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