More than 18 months ago when many of us first heard about SQL Server 2008 R2 it sounded like it might be just a big service pack or just adding some bolt-ons so that some SharePoint/Office 2010 features could work with SQL Server – maybe not unlike SQL Server 2005 SP2 that let us first run Reporting Services in Integrated Mode with SharePoint 2007. But as we have crept closer to the release of R2, started to work with the Betas and CTPs we discovered it represents some significant new features (Application and Multi-server Management, StreamInsight, PowerPivot for Excel/SharePoint 2010, Report Builder 3.0, Reporting Services shared components and advanced data visualizations) as well as more-than-service-pack version maturity and stability… And now that R2 has released we can participate in Launch hoopla similar to full-version releases.
Microsoft has partnered with PASS to assemble an impressive R2 Launch Tour, you can find the full roster here: http://www.sqlpass.org/Events/R2.aspx
I personally had the opportunity to participate in the R2 Launch event collocated with TechDays 2010 in Lisbon April 20-22, I was part of the April 21 keynote where it was announced that SQL Server 2008 R2 had been released to manufacturing (RTM) and I announced the formation of the first Portuguese PASS Chapter: SQLPort. In a similar vein, on Tuesday May 4, I attended the first US R2 Launch Event hosted in the nation’s capital: Washington, DC!
The DC event had a noticeable air to it: a mixture of energy and the sense of arrival. Event excitement (attendees, speakers, event team) coupled with the sheer enjoyment of presenting a new product release. It was a bit of a reunion for those of us that have been on past launch circuits (i.e. Fever and Planes) as well as those of us working hard leading up to the R2 release… the halls were lined with the familiar faces of Microsoft and community stakeholders assuring they witness this kickoff event.
Each Launch event is hosted by a local PASS chapter, the Northern Virginia SQL Server Users Group (http://www.novasql.com/) hosted the DC event and Chapter Leader Jim Rotan welcomed the attendees and introduced the keynote speaker, Stefan Ropers. Stefan covered Microsoft’s Data Platform Vision along with an introduction to SQL Server 2008 R2. Herain Oberoi followed with deeper introductions to the three “pillars” of R2: Trusted & Scalable Platform, Managed Self-Service BI, and IT & Developer Efficiency. The rest of the day was made up of breakout session separated into tracks—each with three sessions—for DBA, BI and ITDM (IT Decision Maker); unique to the DC event, there was also a forth Federal Government-targeted track. The DBA track included sessions on Business Continuity (SQL2008R2, Win2008, Hyper-V Live Migration), R2 Multi-server Management, and SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse. The BI track covered PowerPivot for Excel/SharePoint 2010, Reporting Services and Report Builder 3.0, and Master Data Management. The ITDM sessions were: SQL Azure, Oracle to SQL Server 2008 R2 Migration, and BI Consolidation. Overall the event started and ended well, interest and feedback from the attendees was positive and as I ducked in and out of various sessions throughout the day I saw that most everyone stayed for the entire event.
If you can locate an event within striking distance (use schedule link above), I would recommend you make plans to attend an R2 Launch, there is enough high-quality varied content offered that you should be able to make a full day for yourself regardless of if you have only just learned of SQL Server 2008 R2 or if you have been working with it since beta cycles.
After revving up with Launch you can access ongoing R2 education through many PASS channels:
PASS Director of Chapters