SQL Server 2005 Gets One Step Closer to Reality

Users are already buzzing about the next version of SQL Server

Microsoft Corp.’s long-awaited SQL Server 2005 database inched closer to reality last week when the software giant announced its second SQL Server 2005 Community Technology Preview (CTP).

A CTP is an interim build of the SQL Server 2005 code that Microsoft distributes to its Microsoft Developer’s Network (MSDN) and Betaplace subscribers. It follows on the heels of the first CTP release in October; SQL Server 2003 Beta 3 is expected next quarter.

CTPs often give customers a chance to try out new features or technology additions ahead of upcoming beta releases. In this case, the second SQL Server 2005 CTP adds quality and performance enhancements and extends 64-bit support to SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services and SQL Server 2005 Integration Services, formerly Data Transformation Services.

SQL Server 2005 is much more than just a database release. It’s also the lynchpin of Microsoft’s nascent BI strategy, complete with integrated OLAP, ETL, and reporting facilities. Microsoft has already announced major changes to SQL Server 2005’s OLAP and ETL components (see http://www.tdwi.org/research/display.asp?id=6912), but at its Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) community summit in October, the company outlined several additional changes—starting with the branding of its ETL offering (DTS) which it rechristened SQL Server Integration Services.

“It’s really a fully scalable enterprise-ready ETL solution, but it goes beyond ETL where you can integrate with other Microsoft products,” said Alex Payne, a senior product manager on Microsoft’s SQL Server team, at the time.

Other new ETL enhancements announced at the time were support for RSS feeds and Web services. Also at PASS, Microsoft announced additional data-mining algorithms for its Analysis Services OLAP offering. “We’re adding five new data-mining algorithms, for a total of seven,” said Payne, noting that customers can also develop and add their own, custom data-mining algorithms.

Among many prospective users, a SQL Server 2005 buzz is starting to build. Mark Job is a developer with Immedient Corp., a Microsoft solutions provider based in New Jersey. Although the SQL Server 2005 final build is still at least half a year away, Job is looking forward to one of the biggest changes in Microsoft’s next-generation database—support for the XML for Analysis (XML/A) standard—which he says has been a long time coming.

“The XML/A support from Microsoft at present is decent but largely mechanical. There is adequate plumbing, but not much when it comes to development tools,” he says. “The major—heck, only—testing element I have is the XML/A sample application, which at least allows me to submit queries, preview the results that are returned, and toggle between XML and tabular views so I can see an example of how the XML is parsed.”

While he stresses that he doesn’t know for sure, Job expects that this situation will improve when SQL Server 2005 appears next summer.

“From what I understand, the entire concept of client-side components and caching with Pivot Table Services goes away in [SQL Server 2005],” he writes. “Everything executes server-side, and all communications to clients are XML/A based. This will have an impact on all consumers of MDX query output, from custom apps to third party tools.”

Also last week, Microsoft introduced a technical preview of SQL Server 2005 Express Manager, a database management tool built on top of the version 2.0 release of its .Net Framework. The software giant positions Express Manager as a tool to manage its several flavors of SQL Server, including the vanilla SQL Server 2000 database; the developer-only SQL Server 2000 MSDE; and the SQL Server 2005 Developer and Express Edition databases.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.