User Plans Mixed For SQL Server 7.0

Later this month, Microsoft Corp. will release the much-anticipated upgrade to its flagship database, SQL Server 7.0. So far, the reaction of the IT community to the upgrade, an overhaul to improve scalability and to add a raft of new features, has all the elements of the typical Microsoft product launch.

Later this month, Microsoft Corp. will release the much-anticipated upgrade to its flagship database, SQL Server 7.0. So far, the reaction of the IT community to the upgrade, an overhaul to improve scalability and to add a raft of new features, has all the elements of the typical Microsoft product launch.

Some companies are already in the late stages of testing the upgrade and intend to deploy it in mission-critical applications. Others have raised the familiar scalability and reliability questions and expect to stick with other database vendors for the foreseeable future.

HarperCollins Publishers (New York, www.harpercollins.com) was eager to get version 7.0 and has been running a test version for months in parallel behind a mission-critical SQL Server 6.5 data warehouse, says Stuart Mowat, director of decision support systems for HarperCollins. The publishing house is well known for the 92 GB data warehouse that contains mission critical sales and inventory data on SQL Server 6.5. CIO Lyle Anderson will be joining Microsoft executives on stage for the Comdex Fall launch of SQL Server 7.0.

"It’s running a little bit faster," Mowat says of 7.0 overall. "But it was the utility stuff that we really wanted. The backup and restore is faster." Improvements to the database continuity check (DBCC), which makes sure all the data hangs together correctly, means it now runs in the background when the warehouse is idle, Mowat says. In version 6.5, the DBCC often slowed down the system at inopportune times.

CDC Federal Credit Union in Atlanta runs smaller databases, but has big plans for SQL Server 7.0. "We’re getting ready to start our largest database -- where we’ve got probably in the range of 9 million images that we’ve got to be able to retrieve and access," says Don Fritz, an applications programmer analyst with CDC. Company plans call for the database to be created on SQL Server 7.0, Fritz says. That process will begin in the next month, and then the company will build on that experience to upgrade existing SQL Server 6.5 databases to SQL Server 7.0 early next year, he says. While Fritz has not yet used SQL Server 7.0, he’s looking forward to two features in particular: improved memory management and the ability to scale single-user applications to a multiuser environment without changing the code.

Meanwhile, plans at a regional bank in the Midwest demonstrate an obstacle to widespread deployment of any new software that is peculiar to these times.

A lead LAN engineer at the bank, who asked not to be identified, says an upgrade to the bank’s SQL Server falls third in line to two more critical projects next year: moving the data center to a new location, and the big one -- Y2K preparedness. "The last half of 1999 is essentially frozen because of Y2K," the engineer says. "We really don’t have time to implement the upgrade."

The obstacle for implementing SQL Server 7.0 at another financial services organization in the Midwest is more traditional for Microsoft NT-related product launches. Principal Financial Group (Des Moines, Iowa) uses SQL Server 6.5 at the departmental level, where it serves important functions, but reserves critical enterprisewide systems for DB2 running on MVS. Says Doug Allen, technical analyst with the institution: "Scalable or not, it’s still NT, which is still a PC operating system and not quite ready for doing big things."