In-Depth

Hot at Tech-Ed 2007: SQL Server 2008

Microsoft releases CTP of SQL Server 2008, previously dubbed Katmai.

The next version of SQL Server will deliver native data types for documents, filestreams and geocoding, provide policy-based management, support the Entity Data Model (EDM) and Language Integrated Query (LINQ), and integrate with Microsoft's enhanced business intelligence (BI) offerings.

The first Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference stole the thunder from TechEd's SQL Server coverage when Microsoft Business Division (MBD) President Jeff Raikes announced that the next version of SQL Server would arrive in 2008, and Data Stores & Platform Division VP Ted Kummert gave SQL Server 2008's first public demonstration. Raikes' revelation of SQL Server vNext's RTM plans preceded the news that Bob Muglia's Server & Tools Business (STB) will report to Raikes, along with Sanjay Parthasarathy and the Developer & Platform Evangelism (DPE) team. STB and DPE previously belonged to the Platform and Services Division (PSD) that's headed by Kevin Johnson. Microsoft plans to merge the 2,600 employees of its aQuantive acquisition into PSD. How the reorganization will affect SQL Server 2008 initially remains to be seen, but you can expect much more emphasis on integration of SQL Server's BI features with Microsoft Office clients and servers in the future.

Raikes and Kummert said in their conference keynotes that the SQL Server 2008 release will focus on these four areas:

  • Enterprise Data Platform means that SQL Server will run at every level in the organization: data warehouse, server farm, desktop and devices with Analysis Server, and SQL Server Enterprise, Standard, Express and Compact editions. The Declarative Management Framework for policy-based management of SQL Server 2008 databases will let database administrators (DBAs) apply rules for user actions based on the user's server role. An invitation to Tech●Ed attendees for a Thursday focus group on "T-SQL Intellisense and other rich-client side capabilities in Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio" indicates that the SQL Server team is making another stab at adding IntelliSense, error reporting and dynamic F1 help to SQL Server Management Studio.
  • Beyond Relational refers to making first-class citizens of unstructured data with the VARBINARY(MAX) FILESTREAM data type, as well as adding new planar and geodetic spatial data types and indexing for geocoded information systems. The FILESTREAM data type stores large binary files in the file system, but enables create/retrieve/update/delete (CRUD) operations with conventional T-SQL commands and full-text indexing for queries. T-SQL will also get the extended date and time data types that Microsoft originally promised for SQL Server 2005.
  • Dynamic Development is Microsoftese for abstracting the SQL Server data storage schema to a business object-oriented conceptual schema called the Entity Data Model. ADO.NET 3.5 and a post-RTM Visual Studio 2008 add-in will deliver the Entity Framework to implement the EDM and provide its graphical EDM Designer. Entity Framework is a descendant of WinFS's ObjectSpaces technology. Dynamic Development also encompasses adoption of three ADO.NET 3.5's LINQ flavors — LINQ to SQL, LINQ to DataSets, and LINQ to Entities. SQL Server 2008 will feature support for Occasionally Connected Systems with ADO.NET 3.5's Synchronization Services and the graphical Sync Designer contributed by the Local Data Cache template.
  • Pervasive Insight promises improved data warehousing, data mining and BI features, especially in conjunction with new members of the Office Server product line, such as SharePoint and PerformancePoint, and the OfficeWriter product line that Microsoft acquired recently from SoftArtisans. The goal is to extend the reach of BI by a factor of ten from enabling access by information workers. Closer integration of SQL Server and Visual Studio with BI-oriented middleware and clients undoubtedly played a major role in the decision to move STB into MBD.

Kummert referred to the preceding bullet points in his keynote as the "Four Pillars of Katmai," an obvious reference to the former Four Pillars of Longhorn: WinFS (gone), Indigo (now Windows Communication Foundation, WCF), Avalon (now Windows Presentation Foundation, WPF), and WinFX (now a much less ambitious .NET Framework 3.0/3.5).

Kummert also mentioned in his conference keynote that quick-turnaround Community Technical Previews (CTPs) of SQL Server 2008 will replace the beta releases of earlier SQL Server versions. But Francois Ajenstat, Director of Product Management for SQL Server, dropped this bomb in a low-profile Podcast interview at the conference: "There will be a first CTP [of Katmai] coming out shortly, probably within the next month."  Sure enough, SQL Server 2008's first Community Technical Preview became available from Microsoft Connect on June 4, the first day of Tech●Ed 2007.

About the Author

Roger Jennings is an independent XML Web services and database developer and writer. His latest books include "Special Edition Using Microsoft Office Access 2007" (QUE Books, 2007) and "Expert One-on-One Visual Basic 2005 Database Programming" (WROX/Wiley, 2005). He’s also a VSM contributing editor and online columnist and manages the OakLeaf Systems blog. Jennings’ Code of Federal Regulations Web services won Microsoft’s 2002 .NET Best Horizontal Solution Award. Reach him at Roger_Jennings@compuserve.com.

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