Microsoft SQL Server is Retooled and Ready for Release

The next-gen SQL Server is Microsoft’s most feature-rich database offering to date, boasting almost completely retooled business intelligence innards, including a revamped ETL capability (the new SQL Server Integration Services, or SSIS), enhanced OLAP and data mining capabilities, and a version 2.0 release of Microsoft Reporting Services. So there’s a sense in which SQL Server 2005 is Microsoft’s most consciously BI-oriented release to date.

Because of Microsoft’s lengthy SQL Server private and public beta programs, a large number of customers—more than 300,000, according to the software giant—have already gotten their hands on SQL Server 2005. But comparatively few of these have deployed SQL Server 2005 in production environments, experts say.

“I think that a lot of customers are already developing solutions using SQL Server 2005, but it's not my feeling that many of these have been deployed,” says Adam Machanic, a SQL Server Most Valuable Professional and a database software engineer with a telecommunications and broadband services provider. “Customers are aware, for the most part, that using beta software in production environments is dangerous. I do think there's a lot of interest in ramping up quickly—especially in the development community. But many large SQL Server users are huge corporations, and they take a more conservative view. Some will not upgrade for years.”

Nevertheless, Machanic and other SQL Server enthusiasts see much to like in SQL Server 2005. “By far, my favorite feature is Snapshot Isolation. This feature provides non-blocking reads and writes, while at the same time returning only consistent, committed data. This means that you get all of the benefits of so-called dirty reads, which many shops exploit for increasing concurrency, and none of the drawbacks,” he says.

SQL Server MVP Erland Sommarskog cites several key SQL Server 2005 improvements, such as improved error-handling, native support for XML data-types, a revamped system and database metadata implementation, common table expression, and native support for Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime—along with, of course, snapshot isolation.

All things considered, says Malcolm Leach, a SQL Server programmer with Innovartis, a provider of change management products for SQL Server, next-gen SQL Server should formally close the gap with its competitive rivals. “I think the gap has been entirely emotional for quite some time now,” Leach says, a self-described Oracle-to-SQL Server convert. “Sure, SQL Server used to be a poor cousin to Oracle and DB2, but it has been quite respectable in the TPC benchmarks recently, especially in terms of price/performance. With the advent of SQL 2005, I think Microsoft will really start to make a dent in [IBM’s] and Oracle’s market leadership.”

Of course, not all SQL Server pros are bowled over by some of SQL Server 2005’s purported enhancements—such as native XML and CLR. (See The SQL Server 2005 Paradigm Shift.)

In fact, some SQL Server experts, such as Joe Celko, say Microsoft has compromised key SQL Server 2005 improvements with these and other questionable design decisions. Celko is author of several SQL Server-oriented books, including Joe Celko’s SQL Programming Style. “It keeps getting closer to SQL-92, but at the same time it also adds a ton of proprietary [stuff],” Celko argues, who criticizes Microsoft’s move to native CLR, which should make SQL Server 2005 a more developer-friendly database platform. “Friendly is not always good,” he asserts.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].