I know three areas of SQL 2012 that have bright future, and learning these three will serve you well for years to come. I am at the MVP Summit this week and I am soaking up as much information about these three items as I possibly can.

2012 is a release year. That means it is an opportunity year for you to gain an edge on your peers. You can start learning about these features now and be months, possibly years, ahead of the curve. Getting a jump on these features will pay off in the near future and by the time the next major release rolls around people are going to be looking up to you as the expert.

Last fall I wrote Wanna Get Good At SQL Server? The idea was to help folks understand that there is no secret to becoming an expert in a piece of technology; you just need to put in the work. Your extra effort is what will distinguish you from your peers over time.

But here’s the thing I didn’t tell you before: I know exactly where you should be putting your focus.

xEvents

Extended events are not new in SQL 2012, but they got a facelift with the addition of the xEvents Wizard. With SQL 2012 it is easier to create and manage the sessions that are running inside your instance. Rumor has it that eventually SQL Profiler will be deprecated and disappear. The auditing parts of Profiler will be served by SQL Audit, and the remainder served by xEvents. The lesson here is simple: start learning xEvents now, before you are forced to learn them if (and when) Profiler disappears.

ColumnStore

If you want something shiny, new, and immediately useful for a majority of SQL 2012 users you only need look as far as ColumnStore Indexes. I first heard rumors about this back at my first MVP Summit in 2010 when it was called Project Apollo. I was excited to learn more then and I am even more excited now that it has made it into this release. The idea behind ColumnStore is simple: faster queries through smarter compression. I saw a demonstration recently and I am as hooked now as I have ever been. I love this feature so much that it is part of the pre-con talk that Denny Cherry (blog | @mrdenny) and I are giving at both TechEd events this year (Orlando and Amsterdam, good seats still available).

SQL Azure Data Sync

The Cloud is here. It is not going anywhere. Get used to it. In fact, get so used to the idea of SQL Azure that you start playing around with how to migrate data to and from the Cloud. Two years ago I started using the tools to help me move data back and forth and I found them to be about the equivalent of using a rusty steak knife for doing open heart surgery. Sure, I could get the job done, but it was going to be messy and take much longer than I wanted. Fast forward two years and the tools have gotten better, the SQL Azure service is better, and they even cut their rates recently. You might as well start taking a good hard look at the benefits that SQL Azure has to offer you and your shop. Trust me, one of these days someone is going to stop by your cube and start asking you questions about SQL Azure. If you prepare yourself now you will be able to answer them like an expert.

Those are three items that I believe will be pillars for you in the short term. Learn them now and be ahead of the game. Since I like my readers so much I am going to toss in a fourth topic for you. This one is definitely worth mentioning, but it may not be as useful to the wider audience as the first three.

AlwaysOn

Have you ever imagined what would happen if clustering married database mirroring and they had a child? Well, wonder no more, we have AlwaysOn! If your shop is relying on clustering or mirroring right now, you should be looking at the newest HA/DR toys being offered with SQL 2012. AlwaysOn has two components: the Failover Cluster Instances (FCI) and the Availability Groups. You’ll need to become familiar with Windows Clustering in order to utilize AlwaysOn, so if your shop hasn’t been utilizing Windows Clustering because you are using other techniques (SAN replication, virtualization) you will want to build yourself a sandbox somewhere and start playing.

There you go, four things that if you started diving into today you could be looked at as an expert DBA within the next 18 months. Go get your learn on!