Author: Ross Mistry & Stancia Misner
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Aimed at: Administrators and technical decision makers
Pros: Clear descriptions of what's changed in SQL Server 2012
Cons: A bit lightweight; lacks material for developers
Reviewed by: Kay Ewbank
If you're looking for an intro to SQL Server that's easy to read, this book gets you through what's new in SQL Server pretty well, given its length.
You can download it for free as an e-book for devices such as Amazon Kindle, so don't even have to expend any money. The intended readers are administrators, developers, and technical decision makers, which is a wide-ranging audience for a fairly slim volume. I'd suggest that it doesn't meet the needs of developers except on an introductory level.
The book is split into two parts, database administration and business intelligence development. The database administration part is fitted into the first 80 pages, and is essentially an overview of the changes to the new version. This section kicks off with a chapter on the different editions and engine enhancements that has good explanations of ideas such as the different availability models, and also has overviews of the enhancements to scalability, manageability, security, and programmability. These all then get a chapter of their own, and the concepts are on the whole well described. There's a good section on the new columnstore index; in fact the entire chapter on performance and scalability is taken up with columnstore, how it works, when to use it, and how to create and use one.
The chapter on programmability is titled 'programmability and beyond-relational enhancements', which gives a clue as to the emphasis and material covered. The chapter kicks off with a look at the difficulties of developing and maintaining apps that work with both relational and non-relational data - the need for separate data stores, the lack of ways to correlate the data or stitch it together, how hard it is to create a way for users to search and retrieve relevant data across the mix. Having persuaded you that it'll all end in tears, the authors then go on to discuss the tools you can use and the enhancements that make it possible to create such problematic applications. There are descriptions of the improvements to Filestream, full-text search and semantic search, alongside a good explanation of spatial data types and the improvements in SQL Server 2012.
The second part of the book is about business intelligence development, with chapters on Integration Services, Data Quality Services, Master Data Services, Analysis Services and PowerPoint, and Reporting Services. Integration Services has been substantially improved in SQL Server 2012 in terms of the performance and new features, and the chapter covers the new tools at a level where you'll at least know what to expect and how to use them.
Data Quality Services are new in 2012 and are used to ensure your data is cleansed and deduped before you rely on findings from it. The chapter about DQS again gives a reasonable introduction so you could go and find out more from a more in depth book if necessary.
Master Data Services was first introduced in SQL Server 2008 R2, and the main change in this version is an MDS add-in for Excel. Analysis Services was first seen in SQL Server 2005, but had an alternative engine for PowerPivot added in 2008 R2, and this remains the situation in SQL Server 2012.
The chapter on Analysis Services discusses both modes, along with the new features that have been added to PowerPivot for Excel. Finally, Reporting Services get a chapter. The main changes to Reporting Services in 2012 are limited to SharePoint integrated mode, so much of the chapter discusses this.
Overall, the book gives a good, if relatively high-level, introduction to what's changed in SQL Server 2012. From a developer's viewpoint, it is too high level. The book overall is woefully short of examples and lacks sample code, so isn't a volume to pick up if you're trying to work out how to actually code something. Where the extremely rare examples of code-if-you-squint are given, they show you the syntax and are of the
variety rather than anything that would add to what you could read on the online help page.