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Service Pack 2 for SQL Server 2005 Fixes Bugs, Adds Features

Microsoft plans to ship service pack 2 (SP2) of its SQL Server 2005 database this quarter.

Microsoft plans to ship service pack 2 (SP2) of its SQL Server 2005 database this quarter.

SP2 is slightly unusual in that, besides fixing bugs and improving performance, it adds several new features. These include a handful that could help corporate developers, especially in the area of data mining applications.

"It's definitely more than just bug fixes or feature enhancements," says Francois Ajenstat, director of product management for SQL Server.

SQL Server 2005 SP2 provides new support for data compression, additional business intelligence capabilities and security updates relating to Common Criteria. It also includes manageability enhancements, as well as support for Windows Vista and Office 2007, particularly SharePoint and Analysis Services.

Plus, it significantly expands the capability to access data stored in third-party databases.

"SP2 adds additional data sources, such as support for Hyperion's Essbase and also extends Report Builder's functions to support Oracle," Ajenstat says.

Reporting Services adds the Microsoft .NET Data Provider for Hyperion Essbase to provide access to Hyperion System 9.3 BI+ Enterprise Analytics data sources. The new extension provides a graphical query designer that lets developers interactively build Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) queries.

Reporting Services in SP2 also adds the ability to pull information from Oracle databases.

"You can build report models from Oracle service models," says Chris Alliegro, lead analyst for business applications and servers for Kirkland, Wash.-based researcher Directions on Microsoft. "Originally, those were strictly for SQL Server databases."

Further, it is also now possible to integrate a report server instance with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or Microsoft Office 2007 SharePoint Server. This enables storage, security, access and management of report server items from a SharePoint site. Integration features are provided jointly through SP2 and a special Reporting Services add-in.

"We've integrated [SQL Server's] Reporting Services directly into SharePoint, so you can now consolidate information through SharePoint," explains Ajenstat.

That could be a benefit for both administrators and developers.

"If you're a BI developer, that's an area you'd be interested in ... providing ad hoc reporting features to users so developers don't have to do it," says Alliegro. "It takes a weight off the developers and gives more control to your business users."

In the Enterprise Edition of SP2, Microsoft has also added another data storage format, which can be used to minimize the disk space needed for storing decimal and numeric data types. Called "vardecimal," it stores decimal and numeric data as variable-length columns, and can be enabled or disabled at a table level on both new or existing tables. No application changes are required.

"Vardecimal compression is critical for data warehousing, [so developers and administrators] will see a reduction in database size," Alliegro says.

Meanwhile, features to support Common Criteria definition have also been added. They're aimed at making SQL Server 2005 databases more secure.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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