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It's Yukon time

It looks like this is the week that beta 2 of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (formerly code-named "Yukon") will ship to hordes of eager beta testers, including anyone who cares to download it from MSDN. From all that I can tell at this point, it'll be close enough to prime time to reward testing even for those who don't live on the bleeding edge. In fact, I'd say, this release is pretty much a must for the Windows database developer, especially for those of us who live with the Microsoft tools stack. But before heading off to explore a product as complex as this one (remember, it's been five years in the making) it's worth having a road map. Here are a few things that I think you might consider when gearing up for your own test cycle.

Mandatory cautions first: don't upgrade your production database server and production databases with this, at least not if you ever want to see your data again. This is a beta, and not even the final beta, of a very complex product. There's absolutely no guarantee that this beta will be compatible with the final product, or that you'll be able to do anything other than reformat and start over when the beta is done. In any case, you're not licensed to use it in production. That means you need to set up a separate test machine (or test virtual machine) for Yukon, and use it only for testing. One thing you should do, though, is to move copies of your current databases and applications to your test server. Real-world test scenarios are the ones of most interest going forward.

Many of the improvements in Yukon are designed to address pain points that DBAs have been hitting with SQL Server 2000. If you're a DBA, you need to give these features a spin to understand how you'll be able to use them in production. This includes database mirroring, online restore and fast recovery options, and replication improvements. You should also plan on spending some time learning the new SQL Server Studio integrated toolset. I can pretty much predict that you'll hate it at first, because it's very different from Enterprise Manager and Query Analyzer. But persevere and I think you'll find a lot to like. Besides, it's not like you're going to get a choice.

As a developer, you'll find SQL Server Studio much less annoying because it is, in fact, a SQL Server version of the familiar Visual Studio shell. But you'll find plenty else here to overwhelm you. You're going to hear a lot about Yukon hosting the CLR which allows, among other things, writing stored procedures in C# (or any other .NET language). But don't put all of your efforts into that arena of testing. You'll also want to spend some time with native XML data including XQuery support, Notification Services (now integrated into the core product) and SQL Server Broker, which provides support for large scale asynchronous distributed applications. SQL Server development is definitely no longer just a matter of writing T-SQL.

Fortunately, you won't need to figure everything out on your own. Microsoft has been aggressively working to get Yukon builds into the hands of authors and trainers, and you can expect a veritable flood of books, articles, and courses on the subject. If you go back a few years, you probably remember how amazingly powerful SQL Server 2000 seemed when you upgraded from SQL Server 7.0. Well, the upgrade to SQL Server 2005 is going to be even more amazing. The only real downside to getting started with the beta is that it's bound to make you impatient to deploy the real thing.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.

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