Microsoft SQL Server 2008, aka "Katmai", gives SQL Server shops plenty of reasons to get excited. The best SQL Server release to date, it sports more nice new features than you can count, and the improvements extend to both performance and manageability.

In a few cases, such as the Resource Governor, you'll wish Microsoft had taken the functionality a little further. But whether you manage an OLTP environment, or an OLAP environment, or both, you will most likely find Katmai compelling. SQL Server 2008 easily passes our own five-point test for upgrades.

Our five-point test requires a new release to bring at least five significant improvements to our data environment - a large data warehouse - or it's not worth upgrading. Each improvement has to change our life in a significant way, either by dramatically shortening the time to do common tasks or by allowing us to do something we couldn't do before.

These five Katmai features easily pass the test: Change Data Capture, Lookup Cache, Data Compression, PowerShell integration, and Policy-Based Management. And with Microsoft SQL Server 2008, we could easily keep counting.

Change Data Capture and Lookup Cache will be popular with DBAs who want to speed up ETL (Extract, Transformation, and Load) processes, as will the pipeline improvements in Integration Services, enabling Microsoft SQL Server 2008 to push data much faster.

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