There are a whole raft of cool new features in 2014 including things like In-Memory OLTP, increased Azure integration/options and a new cardinality estimation design to name a few. But for me, one of the most important features in 2014 is the increase in memory that standard edition can use has been increased from 64GB to 128GB.
I currently work for an ISV and the software solutions developed there have been utilising SQL server ever since 2000 was released. As time went on, every time a new SQL server version was released, the software was regression tested and if necessary updated to ensure full compatibility with that version of SQL server. Along the way, support for older versions of SQL server were dropped, firstly for SQL 2000 and then for SQL 2005. The latest version of the software still fully supports 2008 and above. All of which pretty standard stuff and largely echoed within ISVs the world over. Nothing too exciting or ground breaking there.
The release of SQL 2012 wasn't any different really. The software was very quickly regression tested against it and any incompatibilities were addressed and this was all within a few weeks of RTM. But the difference with this version compared with all previous versions was that no subsequent deployments/migrations/upgrades etc etc ever used that version of SQL server. In fact all projects since the release of 2012 consisted of SQL server 2008/R2 and that trend continued all that way until Feb this year where finally 2012 was provisioned as part of a project. Two months before 2014 went RTM.
This wasn't down to the lack of trying though. All the while SQL server 2012 was recommended to clients but ultimately the costs seemed to put them off and all the clients opted to provision/re-use 2008/R2 instances instead even though 2012 was the latest version. It was very hard to justify 2012 over 2008/R2 as there weren't enough killer features that the clients would make use of and recommending Enterprise edition was a non-starter due to the massive hike in licensing costs with 2012. Sure there are a load of cool changes between the versions, but none that would provide anywhere near their ROI for clients looking to deploy a standard edition instance.
This is why I think one of the most important features in 2014 is the extra memory that can be used with standard edition. This gives ISVs an argument if you will to convince their clients to deploy 2014 rather than provision a legacy version. The promise of much better performance due to double the amount of usable memory without resorting to the expensive Enterprise edition is one that may convince those holding the purse strings. Coupled with the fact that 2014 also has the new buffer pool extension feature in standard edition for even more performance options and SQL 2008/R2 dropping out of mainstream support this year ISVs might finally be seeing the end of legacy SQL server versions.. We can but hope, although, because of these new performance incentives to upgrade to 2014, we may find that 2014 standard edition itself hangs around for a very long time to come!