RealTime IT News

Much Ado About Microsoft's New SQL Server

When Microsoft unveils its SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006 products next week, it shouldn't be seen so much as the release of three separate products but as the fruit of constant collaboration between Microsoft's research team and the product specialists.

The company said that a so-called "technology-transfer team" helped bridge the research and product development functions within Microsoft to make the products a reality.

SQL Server 2005 is a classic example of a product buoyed by Microsoft Research.

For example, the Machine Learning and Applied Statistics Group within Microsoft Research has created graphical models for data analysis and visualization. The group is behind the Decision Trees, Clustering, Sequential Clustering and Time Series features that will appear in SQL Server 2005.

David Heckerman, research area manager at Microsoft, said some of the technologies in SQL Server 2005 began in 1992 as pure research. Certain SQL Server 2005 utilities are based on graphical modeling and Bayesian statistical methods.

"There's a predictive component with using Time Series," Heckerman said in a statement. "You can look at business data, at sales data, and extend the patterns into the future. Database tools traditionally have been used to store and look at data, but with SQL Server 2005, users can look into the future."

Microsoft Research also supplied indexed view-matching technology for SQL Server 2005.

Indexed viewing improves database query processing by storing previous requests and analyzing the stored queries when a new query is issued to see if a stored one can supply some or all of the requested data. That process is significantly faster than if each query is treated as completely new.

While the revelation of technology incorporated from Microsoft's research division is new, the world already knows what is going to be in SQL Server 2005.

That's because the Redmond, Wash., giant has been anything but secretive about what customers can expect in the revamped database, building up to the launch at the Moscone Center in San Francisco next Monday.

Microsoft has said it is spending some $50 million on the launch and will host more than 90 global events in November to hype the new products, with legions of customers and partners following.

Roger Frey, senior business development manager at Network Appliance, said in an interview that NetApp will support SQL Server 2005 in its back-up products and is a gold sponsor.

"Microsoft really believes that this version of SQL is their Oracle, or DB2 killer, and it's going to be interesting at their launch when they line up their customers to see if that story is true," Frey said. "We definitely hope for our business that it is. We've seen a lot of interest in the product already."

Microsoft has spawned the interest with frequent updates about the product's new features. Following is a timeline of highlights the company has announced to generate buzz for the SQL Server 2005 launch.

May 2004: Microsoft vows to augment the security in SQL Server 2005, unveiling native security encryption and decryption support and government security certification.

July 2004: The company pledges support for AMD Opteron chips with Direct Connect Architecture in Microsoft SQL Server 2005 beta 2. The deal is considered Microsoft's response to customers and partners at a time when demand for high-performance computing is growing.

September 2004: Microsoft expands business intelligence capabilities in its database software with two free software service packs that augment the reporting capabilities in SQL Server 2000.

October 2004: Microsoft kicks off the first of what will be six Community Technical Previews (CTP) of SQL Server 2005 through September 2005. CTPs are "interim builds," giving customers an opportunity to provide the company with as many suggestions as possible.

December 2004: Microsoft released its second CTP for SQL Server 2005, adding greater performance and 64-bit support for SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services and SQL Server 2005 Integration Services.

February 2005: Microsoft announces pricing for SQL Server 2005, including a new edition of software priced between the developer and standard versions.

March 2005: Business intelligence highlights the third CTP for SQL Server 2005, which includes a tool that allows business users with little technical experience to create reports on the fly.

April 2005: Microsoft stresses close ties between Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 in fourth CTP.

June 2005: Microsoft announces the public beta availability of the SQL Server 2005 JDBC Driver on Friday.

September 2005: Microsoft completes its final CTP for SQL Server 2005, improving its Database Mirroring feature.