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Microsoft Broadens SQL Server Line

SQL Server 2005 has been a consistent winner for Microsoft, showing double-digit percentage revenue growth for the last few quarters. This week, Microsoft gave its quiet success story a bit of a boost.

At its Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Community Summit, Microsoft  announced a new community technology preview (read: beta) of Service Pack 2 (SP2) for SQL Server, the Release Candidate (RC) of SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition and Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals.

The CTP for SP2 adds data compression, increased business intelligence functionality, adds security updates and support for Windows Vista and Office 2007. Excel, Excel Server and Sharepoint have all been integrated with SQL Server, allowing for Excel data analytics to be done within SQL Server.

Microsoft also added interoperability with Hyperion Essbase and Oracle data sources, allowing administrators to build reports on top of both SQL Server and SAP applications.

SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition is a rebranding of SQL Server Mobile Edition, which is designed for small footprint devices. It shares the SQL Server database syntax and ADO.NET programming model and is aimed at what Microsoft called "occasionally connected systems."

"This is for developers that need to build apps that store and need to synchronize data," said Francois Ajenstat, director of SQL Server for Microsoft. "Your phone or laptop are not always connected to the data center where you data is stored. This is designed for when you get connected to synchronize your data."

These announcements don't sound terribly sexy, but Donald Feinberg, vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner, said they are both very important components to Microsoft strategy.

"One of the major focuses of Microsoft right now is on the occasionally connected user or application. It's all about mobility for people on the road. That's where the future really is and that's what they're focusing on," he said.

SP2 of SQL Server will contain much of the technology from WinFS that was splintered earlier this year. Its integration with Windows, Office, other databases and other Microsoft servers makes it the central hub in a connected system, Feinberg pointed out.

"With this, I will have a continuum of data across all products, from my IT department to my desktops to my email, with one underlying file system, the database, underneath everything. That's a pretty powerful message," he said.

SQL Server acting as the central point of access enables things like data searches across Office, Sharepoint and Exchange servers, he added.

Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals will be available on November 30. This latest edition to the Visual Studio product line will allow database developers and administrators to be a part of the application development process.

"There has always a disconnection between the two [DBAs and other programmers]. If you needed to make schema changes to the database, you called the DBA and made the change in another tool," said Ajenstat.