Microsoft is continuing its countdown to the release of SQL Server 2016 with the availability of Release Candidate 1 for customers to download and evaluate.
Confusingly, SQL Server 2016 RC 1 is actually the second Release Candidate, as the first was announced just a few weeks ago.
Microsoft explained in a blog post that the company is moving to a new rapid release model that will see the publishing of multiple release candidates on a more frequent basis.
However, the firm has yet to offer a date for availability of the full release version of the next-generation database system other than "later in 2016".
The latest move follows Microsoft's earlier announcements that it is developing a version of SQL Server 2016 to run on Linux, and that it will offer free SQL Server licences for Oracle database users tempted to make the switch.
Microsoft said that RC 1 represents an important milestone, as it means that the code is very nearly feature complete, and boasted of the rich set of capabilities in the new version.
These include real-time operational analytics, rich visualisations, built-in advanced analytics, new security technologies and hybrid scenarios that allow customers to extend data storage to the cloud.
The latter capability, introduced with the first RC, comes in the form of the SQL Server Stretch Database, a new Azure companion service that allows customers to dynamically extend data from an on-premise SQL Server deployment to Microsoft's Azure public cloud platform.
Among the new capabilities in RC 1 are enhancements to SQL Server Reporting Services, including the ability to click on key performance indicators in order to drill down to a view with more details, Microsoft said, and the ability to connect key performance indicators and mobile reports to parameterised datasets.
Microsoft also said that the web portal can now be customised with an organisation's logo and colours for branding purposes, while reports have been given new, modern styles for charts, gauges, maps and other data visualisations.
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