This content is part of the Buyer's Guide: How to select the best DBMS software: A buyer's guide

Microsoft SQL Server 2016 relational DBMS overview

Microsoft SQL Server 2016 for Windows comes in four editions, with updates that include a new stretch database feature, Polybase, dynamic data masking and more.

Microsoft SQL Server 2016 is a relational database management system (DBMS) for Windows platforms that can be used for building, deploying and managing applications located on premises or in the cloud.

The latest version, SQL Server 2016, was released in June 2016. It provides a bevy of and improved capabilities, including:

  • A stretch database feature, which can be used to store some data on premises and send infrequently used data to Microsoft's Azure cloud. Applications can access all data, regardless of where it's stored.
  • The Always Encrypted feature makes it possible to encrypt data at rest and in at the column level.
  • Polybase, which integrates SQL Server with Hadoop's Distributed File System and enables Hadoop data to be queried with SQL and joined with native relational data.
  • In-database advanced analytics provides the capability to incorporate the R programming language into SQL Server applications by wrapping it in stored procedures.
  • Dynamic data masking can be used to obfuscate data, protecting actual data values from unauthorized personnel for regulatory and compliance purposes.
  • Support for temporal data enables automatic tracking of historical changes to data over time.

Other features include built-in JavaScript Object Notation support, as well as improvements to Microsoft's Hekaton in- capabilities. This latest version also provides a storage format, row-level security and Transact-SQL improvements for -optimized tables.

SQL Server 2016 offerings

There are four main editions of SQL Server 2016 relational DBMS:

  1. Enterprise is for mission-critical applications, advanced analytics and data warehousing/business intelligence workloads. This edition is configured to provide high performance and availability for your most important applications. It supports an unlimited number of cores, and usage is constrained by only the operating system.
  2. Standard is for core database capabilities, reporting and analytics. Compute capacity can't exceed 24 cores; maximum usage is 128 GB per instance.
  3. Developer is designed for application development purposes (as opposed to production database usage). Its core and support is the same as for the Enterprise edition.
  4. Express is a free edition geared primarily for learning and basic introductory usage. Express edition uses the same database engine and offers compatibility with the main SQL Server editions, but it limits database size to a maximum of 10 GB running on no more than four cores and 1 GB of .

Microsoft SQL Server 2016 relational DBMS runs on Windows only and supports numerous versions. Microsoft has committed to porting SQL Server to Linux in the near future.

Microsoft SQL Server 2016 licensing

SQL Server 2016 software licenses are sold through:

  • Online retailers, which offer full-packaged product licenses of SQL Server software;
  • OEMs, which offer preinstalled licenses with their hardware systems; and
  • Licensing solutions partners and enterprise software advisors, which offer SQL Server software through Microsoft Volume Licensing programs for end-customer organizations.

There are two main licensing options for SQL Server 2016:

  • Server + CAL, which enables customers to license users and devices at a lower cost, adding to their SQL Server deployment as needed; or
  • Per Core, which offers a more precise and consistent measure of computing power, regardless of whether SQL Server is deployed virtually, on physical servers, on premises or in the cloud.

Contact Microsoft for specific pricing.

A free, full-featured trial version of SQL Server 2016 is available for 180 days. Microsoft offers Premier Mission Critical Support for SQL Server 2016 that's based on an organization's specific usage and requirements.

Data types supported

In addition to the standard numeric, character and date/time data types supported by all relational DBMSes, Microsoft SQL Server 2016 supports money, XML and variable binary data types, as well as user-defined types. Support for system-versioned temporal data was added in the latest version.


SQL Server 2016 holds the world record for TPC-H on Lenovo hardware, as well as an impressive 100 TB analytics study running on four Intel Xeon E7 processors. Microsoft regularly updates benchmarking details for SQL Server 2016.

Next Steps

Learn more about features in SQL Server 2016

Tips for upgrading to SQL Server 2016

Check out our SQL Server 2016 guide

Dig Deeper on Database management

Business Analytics
Content Management