Saturday, March 25, 2017

New features of SQL 2016

 

Introduction

SQL Server 2016 was (finally) released on June 1st, 2016 with an initial build number of 13.0.1601.5. Microsoft build SQL 2016 keeps a lot of things in mind like Cloud first, Security enhancement, JSON support, Temporal database support, Row level security, Windows server 2016 connectivity, Non-relational database connectivity (e.g. Hadoop), rich visual effects, etc.
In this article, we will take a walk-through all fresh SQL 2016 features and cover them one by one.

Always Encrypted

 
 As the word suggests, 'Always Encrypted' feature of SQL 2016 'Always' keeps your sensitive data 'Encrypted' either at rest (local environment) or at remote (Cloud/Azure). It will help to protect data from people who may play around it like DBAs, Cloud operators, high-privileged but unauthorized users.
 
How It Works
You can set Always Encrypted to individual column (where your sensitive data resides). While configuring columns, you need to specify encryption algorithm and cryptographic keys for data protection. There are basically two keys you need to define:
  1. Encryption Key for column data encryption (It will be used to encrypt data for specific column)
  2. Master Key: for Encryption of column encryption keys
So basically, it's a double encryption protection, only program can access it, client application will automatically encrypt and decrypt data before fetching data from database

JSON Support

 
 
SQL 2016 gives direct support to JSON (Java Script Object Notation), SQL has the facility to read JSON format data, load them in table, support index properties in JSON columns.
JSON data will be stored in NVARCHAR type. Due to NVARCHAR type, an application has the following benefits:
  • Already stored JSON data (as text) can be easily migrated on new feature.
  • As NVARCHAR is supported by all SQL components so is the JSON too.
You can easily fetch data FOR JSON from SQL with the below syntax:

SELECT column, expression, column as alias
FROM table1, table2, table3
FOR JSON [AUTO | PATH]

It is a SELECT command so when we fire the above query, SQL will format each row/cell value and return as JSON object.
SQL has also provided in-built functions for JSON.

Dynamic Data Masking

 
 
This is again one of the security features of SQL 2016. As the name suggests, it just wraps MASK on your data, in short, it hides your confidential data that you don't want to display. It just avoids disclosure of your sensitive data.
After masking, SQL User with limited rights will not view original text, he can view only Masked Text, SQL has pre-defined masking functions you just need to apply it on different columns, see below:

Sr NoFunctionsApplied onPlain text (Input)Masking text(output)
1DefaultString, NumberABCDxxxx
2EmailEmail texttest@test.comtxxx@xxxx.com
3RandomNumbers1234684
4Custom StringTextRABBITRXXXX

To apply this on specific columns, you just need to ALTER column with 'MASKED WITH' function name, see below syntax:

//here I used function as Default(), you can change it to any of the above types
ALTER TABLE tablename ALTER COLUMN columnname MASKED WITH (FUNCTION=‚default()‘)

Row Level Security  


This is again one of the security features of SQL 2016. It allows you to secure your data row wise, in short you can define a row, that will be viewed by a particular SQL user only. So depending upon the SQL user access permission, we can restrict row level data, e.g., we can ensure if employees can view only their department data though department table is the same.
To implement Row level security, you need to define Security policy with a predicate and function.
Security policy:
We need to create a policy for security, here is simple syntax:

CREATE SECURITY POLICY fn_security ADD [FILTER | BLOCK] PREDICATE FunctionName ON TableName

In the above syntax, FILTER and BLOCK are the predicates that will either FILTER rows and display only those that are available for read or BLOCK rows for write operation.

Function: Function is a simple user defined function, but here are some restrictions for user defined function that are used in Row Level Security syntax:
  • Database modification operations are not allowed
  • OUTPUT INTO clause is not allowed in function
  • Multiple result set should not be returned from function 

Stretch Database

As the name suggests, it gives flexibility to the user. In short, we can store portion of database to remote (Here, we can say cloud/Azure). The portion of data can be called as COLD DATA. (It is useful for those where transactional data needs to be keep for long time as industry requirement.) So we can say it's a cost-effective solution for COLD data storage, your data is available anytime for query and manage. You can access your data without changing queries either it is present on local or at stretch database.
To configure it, you need an Azure account and database instance that you need to stretch. The following snap will clear your idea.

 

Multiple TempDB




It is always a good practice to have a Multiple Temp data files, if you are working on a big crucial data, up till now (SQL 2014), you need to manually add temp db files to your database but SQL 2016 provides you temp DB configuration settings, in which you can configure Number of TempDB files at the time of SQL installation. Default number of files are 8 with default size of 64 MB will be given.
So you no longer need to configure/create it manually.

Query Store

 
 
Up till now, to check Query plan and execution statistics, we need dynamic management views in SQL but neither will it give you Query plan that executed by past/old queries nor will it store them anywhere so that you can review, but SQL 2016 provides you 'Query Store' that takes you through query plan, statistics and Query execution for current and past queries.
To enable it, just right click on database (obviously, you need SQL 2016 SSMS), go to properties. You will see 'Query store' at the left corner, select it and click on Enable 'true' or you can do it using Query as follows:

ALTER DATABASE [Database1] SET QUERY_STORE = ON

Temporal Table

Do you want to store history of your SQL table? So you want to review your old records after table updation? Then you can go with this features. SQL 2016 provides record version facility in which it keeps a history of changed record and maintains it for timely analysis. This feature can be useful for Audit, checking data trend, accidental update/delete data and many more.

How It Works

Basically, the system keeps pair of a table for history and adds two additional columns in it named 'SysStartTime' and 'SysEndTime' for start time and end time for row respectively. Live table contains current record of row, whereas history table contains previous record of row. We can fetch data from History table, with the following query:

SELECT * FROM table1 FOR SYSTEM_TIME   
BETWEEN date1 AND date2
WHERE condition; 

R Introduction

Have you stored statistical data in SQL? Want to use R to analyze it? You export data each time from SQL to R? Then your headache will now be covered in SQL 2016, because it is now with R. You can run R script on SQL. You need to install this feature at the time of SQL setup.
 
Reference

We cannot cover all features in details, maybe I will be planning soon to cover them one by one.
Till then, you can enjoy this article.
Suggestion and queries are always welcome.

Happy querying!

**This article is already published at CodeProject

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