SQL Server 7.0 Debuts

The industry press has been really abusive when talking of Microsoft Corp. and its ability to work its way into the enterprise of large corporations. There is lots of talk about Windows NT, SQL Server and other Microsoft products and the ability they have to scale.

Performance is a big concern. Windows NT and all the BackOffice products must perform adequately if Microsoft is going to be able to move into the major application areas of organizations.

The Microsoft product that many people question the most in regard to scalability is SQL Server. At Microsoft Tech-Ed in New Orleans in June 1998, there were many presentations on SQL Server 7.0 that demonstrated how to use it and optimize it. I sat in on a presentation on optimizing SQL Server 7.0, given by Kimberly Tripp-Simonnet, president, training and consulting specialist, with SY Solutions Inc. (Washington), who has performance and tuning experience with SQL Server 7.0. She demonstrated how many of the new SQL Server 7.0 features worked and how they related to its performance.

SQL Server 7.0 contains numerous features that enhance its performance. First, it is designed to autotune itself as the demand on system resources changes over time. This is a big change from previous versions in which the database administrator or system administrator was forced to make many changes to SQL Servers parameters on the basis of its usage and the other applications running on a server. For instance, in SQL Server 7.0, you no longer need to set the procedure cache size: It is now automatically done. SQL Server 7.0 also monitors the other applications that run on a system and the demands those systems place on memory. If the other applications need more memory, SQL Server 7.0 will release more memory to them. When they no longer need the extra memory, SQL Server 7.0 will use it. SQL Server 7.0 can also automatically increase the size of a database.

While these features are expected improvements in the design of SQL Server, these features also signify a change that is sweeping across all the BackOffice products. Microsoft is making a push to automate the management of many system features.

SQL Server 7.0 provides a glimpse of what is going on in many areas of BackOffice in regard to performance. SQL Server 7.0 is fast. It implements many features that improve performance in areas that are traditional bottlenecks. For instance, it is time-consuming to perform system backups on large systems. SQL Server 7.0 performs online backups while the database is in operation and will reduce the performance by 5 percent or less. This means that users will see a 5 percent or less drop in performance during the backup. The backup is also fast.

There are also other performance changes. Various queries are faster because of many changes in either the query processor or other areas of the database engine. The underlying structure of the database tables has also been updated to improve performance.

What is the real significance of SQL Server 7.0? This is the first version of SQL Server that is truly a Microsoft product. Microsoft had tweaked previous versions, but never really re-engineered SQL Server until version 7.0. As Microsoft moves forward with BackOffice and NT, you can bet that other products will share performance gains like SQL Server. These changes are allowing NT and other products that run on it to scale up for larger and large sites.

Ken Spencer has written several books for Microsoft Press and works for training organization 32X Corp. (Greensboro, N.C.). Contact him at kenspencer@32x.com or via the Web at www.32nt.com.