Microsoft Sends SQL Server 2000 to Beta 2

REDMOND, Wash. -- The beta 2 version of SQL Server 2000 will be issued this week, Microsoft Corp. officials said at the SQL Server 2000 Reviewer’s Workshop here late last month.

In developing the database, which is known by the code-name Shiloh, Microsoft ( focused on scalability, Internet support, and ease of use.

To improve the scalability of the database, Microsoft implemented a similar scale-up and scale-out approach to the one it uses in Windows 2000. The scale-up technique calls for shared everything via Windows 2000’s Address Windowing Extensions (AWE), while the scale-out route relies on a shared nothing approach enhanced with the database’s new partitioned views support.

Paul Flessner, vice president at Microsoft, points out that each approach is applicable in different situations. Scale-up covers most customer needs, but limits scalability; as a result, tends to diminish returns on hardware investments. Shared nothing, in contrast, scales very well due to partitioned views, but Microsoft’s challenge is to make it easy enough for the common IT department to configure.

"Shared everything will be around forever, but it does flatten out on the high-end," Flessner says. "On the other hand, shared nothing doesn’t work well enough for OLTP, because by the time you get it configured to do so, it turns into shared everything anyway. So we are going to do both."

To facilitate Internet and e-commerce support, Microsoft enhanced the XML capabilities within Shiloh. For instance, SQL Server 2000 will be able to get XML messages out of relational data, provide XML views to relational tables, provide relational views on XML data, and offer XML updating.

Rich Rollman, lead program manager of XML technologies at Microsoft, says XML views give users an XML programming model, rather than a SQL model. "XML is a very extensible format," he says. "I can add to it without breaking it."

To improve the product’s overall ease-of-use, Microsoft added multi-instancing of the database and enhancements to the full-text search and English query features.

Hal Berenson, a SQL Server product unit manager at Microsoft, says his group receives countless requests for new features.

"In the end, they all came down to multi-instances," he explains.

Shiloh provides multiple instances of the database on a single machine. Berenson says customers can use multi-instances for applications hosting, server consolidation, SQL runtime, and implementation of shared disk failover.

"We walk this line the whole time saying we have this great new feature, but we don’t necessarily want everybody to use it," he says.

As a point of clarification, Berenson points out that multi-instancing of SQL Server 2000 is a complex task, and the company is encouraging customers that intend to use it to prepare extensively.

The SQL Server team also updated full-text search, a feature that allows querying of the significant words in character-based database columns and documents stored in an image column. New to full-text search in SQL Server 2000 are failover clustering, change tracking, document filtering, and a number of performance enhancements.

English query is the ability to translate English to SQL. Microsoft improved English query by adding project wizards that build models automatically, a Suggestion Wizard to add relationships based on user questions, graphical authoring to understand and create relationships, OLAP support, Semantic Modeling Format to create models programmatically via XML DOM, and integration with Visual Studio.

Keith Short, an English query architect at Microsoft, says integration with Visual Studio allows users access to Visual Data tools so they can change data and create views. Developers can use Visual Studio’s Deploy capability for one-click deployment.

A few features won’t make it into the final version of SQL Server 2000 in time to meet the shipping date. These include updategrams, HTTP access to the database, and bulk load capability. Microsoft plans to offer a Web release with these and future features that don’t make the final cut shortly after the SQL Server 2000 release.

Flessner says that the beta looks strong. One of Microsoft’s biggest e-commerce customers, in fact, put beta 1 into production before Christmas and survived the holiday season.

"They didn’t tell us. I would have killed them," he says. "But they did it and it worked fine for them."

Microsoft says it is working on both a bigger and a smaller version of SQL Server 2000: one for 64-bit computing and another for Windows CE.

The company demonstrated the 64-bit version last year at the WinHEC conference on a prototype Itanium-based system.

"The server is all ported and it runs fine, we just have to do some optimization," says Peter Spiro, a product unit manager on the SQL Server development team.

Spiro says the database needs tools, in the form of hardware and applications, before it is finalized.

The 64-bit SQL Server 2000 is scheduled to ship soon after 64-bit Windows 2000 is released. Microsoft claims to be waiting for Intel Corp. ( to deliver the hardware.

Flessner says the company plans to release a version of SQL Server 2000 for Windows CE devices, thus bringing the database down to devices even smaller than notebooks, the smallest form factor on which SQL Server 7.0 is able to run.

But Flessner points out that the forthcoming version for CE will differ from the desktop version in that the CE version will be a fully functional relational database that runs on CE.

"This isn’t a pared down SQL Server," he says. "It is, in essence, a new engine that we put together from the parts we had."

Flessner says the base SQL Server 2000 is on schedule for a summer release.

[Infobox] New to 2000

In SQL Server 2000 Microsoft enhanced the following:

Core relational engine

Core storage engine



Full-text search

English query

OLAP services

Data mining

For more on SQL Server Beta 2, please see:

Microsoft Talks BizTalk Server 2000
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Microsoft Adds Data Mining to OLAP Services
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Microsoft Enhances SQL Server 2000 Core Storage Engine
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