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Microsoft’s focus on cloud computing has been one of its defining characteristics lately, and especially apparent in the business intelligence space. As new cloud-based analytics services appeared one after the next in recent years, officials in Redmond had little to say about the business intelligence capabilities of SQL Server, the company’s flagship on-premises database, leaving some observers wondering if Microsoft even cared much about onsite analytics anymore.

Well, fear not SQL Server fans. SQL Server 2016, due to reach market on a still unspecified date next year, will include a slew of interesting new business intelligence features, most of which reflect the many ways BI has changed since Microsoft’s last SQL Server release.

For example, with big data rapidly on the rise, more and more organizations now store reporting data in both relational databases, like SQL Server, and non-relational repositories based on Hadoop. As a result, SQL Server 2016 will have built-in support for PolyBase, a Microsoft technology previously available only via the company’s separately sold Analytics Platform System that allows organizations to query relational and non-relational data sources simultaneously.

Predictive analytics, which uses big data to anticipate the future rather than understand the past, is another fast-growing field of business intelligence presently, so Microsoft has equipped SQL Server 2016 with the “R” predictive analytics technology it acquired through its purchase of software maker Revolution Analytics earlier this year. That will enable data scientists to create and manage predictive BI solutions via the same platform they use for all of their other analytics needs.

To meet skyrocketing use of smartphones and tablets, meanwhile, SQL Server 2016 will include enhanced support for mobile BI, including new apps for iOS, Android, and Windows that let roaming users view and analyze graphically-rich reports on smaller screens.

Of course, those reports won’t be much good if they’re based on outdated information in data warehouses, so SQL Server 2016 will use new in-memory database capabilities to let users query live, up-to-the-instant data stored in frontline transaction processing databases without impacting the performance of those systems.

SQL Server 2016 also includes several features aimed at helping organizations more easily access and manage the growing portion of their reporting data stored in the cloud. For instance, the new version of SQL Server Integration Services, which provides functionality for moving, extracting, transforming, and loading analytics data, will include connectors for several cloud-based BI services.

There’s plenty more where that came from as well, including new and enhanced connectivity with Oracle, Teradata, and SAP data sources, and tighter integration with Microsoft’s Visual Studio development environment. The long wait for heavyweight new business intelligence functionality in SQL Server, it appears, is set to end soon.

Rich Freeman, Senior Consulting Editor of ChannelPro MagazineA veteran writer and editor, Rich Freeman has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry. Rich was founding editor and is currently senior consulting editor of ChannelPro magazine. His work has also appeared in Redmond Channel Partner magazine and on the Web sites of Computerworld, Network World, CIO, and InfoWorld magazines.