SQL Server 2005: Are We There Yet?

Microsoft’s next-gen database still isn’t generally available.

There was an important caveat lost in the hullabaloo of last week’s SQL Server 2005 launch: Microsoft Corp.’s next-gen database isn’t yet generally available. In fact, if you go to Microsoft’s online software store and try to click the new SQL Server 2005 into your shopping basket, you’ll be told it’s “backordered.”

Never fear, Microsoft officials say: SQL Server 2005 will ship this year. A statement released today by a public relations firm engaged with Microsoft reads: "SQL Server 2005 was released to manufacturing on 10/27. On 11/7, the product officially launched and was available for download on MSDN and Tech Center. SQL Server 2005 will be generally available on December 1st. Localized versions of the product will be available in the coming months."

True, the product wasn’t generally available for Redmond’s official launch festivities, but Microsoft officials say it should GA sometime in early December. That will give users all of three weeks to start planning their SQL Server 2005 migrations before they adjourn for the Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s holidays.

Of course—as long-time industry-watcher Mike Schiff notes—an early-December GA is of pivotal importance to Microsoft. “This lets them get [SQL Server] out there while it’s still 2005,” says Schiff, a principal with data warehousing and business intelligence (BI) consultancy MAS Strategies. “This way, they don’t have to rebrand it SQL Server 2006.”

All kidding aside, says Schiff, the early-December GA won’t make a whit of difference for most users. SQL Server 2005 migrations won’t happen overnight, after all—even in cases where users have already beta-tested the next-gen SQL Server product. At this point, Schiff suggests, the important thing is that the SQL Server code-base has been finalized and that the product has “launched,” so to speak. “There’s so much pent-up demand for [SQL Server 2005], and I think most [users] are just glad it’s finally here,” he says.

Along with Windows 2000 (nee Windows NT 5.0)—which missed its target release date by about three years—the next-gen SQL Server (formerly code-named “Yukon”) is one of the tardiest deliverables in Microsoft’s long history. (We’ll put aside MIA products or technologies, such as “Cairo” and Microsoft’s relational file system, WinFS).

After all, SQL Server 2000 shipped about five years ago, and—while Microsoft refreshed that database with several service pack updates and a 64-bit edition—60 months is a long time between flagship database releases.

At the same time, you’d hardly know SQL Server 2000 was running out of gas. For example, while IBM Corp. bled database market share in 2004 (dropping 1.4 percent, from 35.5 to 34.1 percent, according to Gartner Inc.), Microsoft grew its share by 1.3 percent (from 18.7 percent to 20.0 percent, pace Gartner)—about as much as Oracle, which had a relatively new 10g database to excite prospects.

With this in mind, SQL Server 2005 should make things more interesting. In addition to its (now robust) BI feature stack, it also has the stamp of a thoroughbred performer for traditional OLTP applications. As Schiff notes, Microsoft showcased several SQL Server 2005 benchmark highlights—including a first place price/performance showing in the Transaction Processing Performance Council’s (TPC) TPC-H (decision support) 100 gigabyte category. If that’s not enough, Redmond’s SQL Server 2005 thoroughbred finished first, second, and third in the TPC’s 1,000 gigabyte category; notched a first-place price/performance finish in the TPC’s TPC-C (OLTP) benchmark; and bested its predecessor by 350 percent in the SAP Sales and Distribution benchmark.

Users are excited about the new release, but—as Schiff suggested—many will take their time upgrading to SQL Server 2005. So the lack of immediate availability won’t affect them. “Our current versions of enterprise software [Visual MFG, Visual Quality, Ceridian, and ACT!] do not support 2005,” said Steve Witter, a report developer with a healthcare products company based in the Midwest, last week. “That leaves only Reporting Services that can be upgraded. The only problem with that is our license for RS is on our primary SQL Server which contains some of the software I stated above. If we wanted to implement [Reporting Services] 2005, we would have to purchase separate licenses, which probably won't happen.” To make a long story short, says Witter, his company will probably remain a SQL Server 2000 shop for some time to come.

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About the Author

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