SQL Server 2016: helping governments leverage big data

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 21 March 2016
SQL Server 2016: helping governments leverage big data

Industry analysts recognise the breadth and depth of Microsoft’s capabilities in data, intelligence, and the cloud. “Microsoft is the only company recognised as a leader across data platforms and cloud by Gartner in both vision and execution, in database, business intelligence, advanced analytics, data warehouse, cloud infrastructure and cloud application platforms,” said Parul Bhandari, Microsoft’s government lead for open data and big data in a recent blog post.

Bhandari says that SQL Server 2016 builds on this reputation by bringing next-generation, advanced analytics to governments, helping IT administrators turn vast amounts of data into actionable insights. The database uses in-memory technology to improve the speed and performance of data queries. It includes the ability to run the R open-source programming language within the database itself, opening up the opportunity to perform advanced analytics right from within SQL Server. SQL Server 2016 also includes PolyBase, a new technology that makes it possible to extract value from both structured data and unstructured data without the time and expense of moving it around or transforming it into a common format.

“Used in combination with other Microsoft technologies, SQL Server 2016 puts data at the fingertips of government workers,” Bhandari explains. “For example, employees can use Power Query to pull data from numerous sources into data models and analytical reports. Moreover, they can view these insights as rich visualizations using their Windows, iOS, and Android mobile devices. Whether it’s predicting future outcomes from past trends or analysing the results of public programmes, SQL Server 2016 can deliver the advanced insights that governments need.”

SQL Server already has an outstanding security record. In fact, for the last six years, it has had the fewest security vulnerabilities of any major database on the market, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “SQL Server 2016 builds on our commitment to security by offering several additional features to ensure that government data is always protected,” says Bhandari.

“Always Encrypted is an industry-first technology that helps protect data by encrypting it while at rest, in use, and when processing queries—with the decryption key provided only to authorized users. By using Dynamic Data Masking, IT administrators can create rules that hide sensitive data such as phone numbers, social security numbers, and bank information to prevent unauthorized access. Similarly, Row-Level Security enables IT administrators to restrict the information employees can see in database tables based on their role within the organization. And an enhanced AlwaysOn Availability Groups improves database recovery by allowing up to three synchronous replicas for auto-failover across domains”

SQL Server 2016 is designed to work in a hybrid environment, delivering a flexible and consistent experience both on-premises and in the cloud. Bhandari  says that new tools in SQL Server and Microsoft Azure make it possible to shift database content between a government agency’s on-premises infrastructure and the cloud, to back up on-premises databases to Azure, and to access resources no matter where they’re stored. “For example, IT administrators can pin a Reporting Services paginated report item to a Power BI dashboard so they can view all their information in one place,” she said. “They can also access on-premises data from the Power BI service without the need to move the data to the cloud. In addition, they can take advantage of Stretch Database to automatically move on-premises data to the cloud for archiving after a specified length of time, freeing up valuable on-premises storage space while maintaining easy access to their data in both environments.”

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