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Coming Soon: SQL Server 2008

Worldwide Partner Conference announcement promises Microsoft's SQL Server 2008 will be ready to ship by the end of September.

The day of reckoning for Microsoft's SQL Server 2008 is drawing closer. The refresh of the company's flagship database is on pace to release to manufacturing (RTM) this quarter, barring any changes.

Microsoft all but made that official during its recent Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston. Fausto Ibarra, Microsoft's new director of product management for SQL Server, says he's confident that SQL Server 2008 will be ready to ship by the end of next month.

"The release candidate we have is feature complete, so our customers and partners can try out absolutely everything SQL Server offers," Ibarra tells RDN (see RDN's Q&A with Ibarra here). As far as Microsoft is concerned, that's the schedule it has been adhering to all year; the company earlier announced it would not make its original target of release by June.

Timing Questions
Quote by Andrew BrustNot long ago, there was speculation that SQL Server 2008 might face additional delays ('Will SQL Server 2008 Slip Again?" May 15, 2008). Among those still expressing doubts about the schedule is Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York, who recently spoke at a meeting of the NYC .NET Developers Group. In an e-mail exchange, Brust writes, "there's mounting evidence that a Q3 RTM is the reality. "Nonetheless, Brust remains skeptical. "I'm still dubious, but that might be irrational at this point. I would, in any case, greatly prefer to see one more release candidate before RTM. That would raise my comfort level enormously."

While another release candidate is possible, Ibarra sounded comfortable with the stability of the current build. "We're getting some reports of bugs," Ibarra admits. "It's usual -- it's actually a small number. By now the product is very solid. We already have a lot of customers in production, we have a lot of applications that Microsoft is running on SQL Server 2008, including SAP -- we all get paid because of SQL Server 2008. At this point we're just in the final stages of testing."

Gartner Inc. analyst Donald Feinstein says too much is at stake for Microsoft to release the database if it has any major flaws. "They understand that bad quality is not something that they can afford," Feinstein says.

SQL Server 2011?
If Redmond maintains its historical release schedule, the next version of SQL Server will come out around 2011. Microsoft is offering scant details about what's in store, but Ibarra concedes that the next version will focus on Microsoft's strategy of easing management of content across multiple tiers, ranging from mobile devices to the cloud.

Key to that, Ibarra says, will be Project "Velocity," the data-caching software Microsoft recently released as a community technology preview, and SQL Server Data Services, a cloud-based service for storing content.

Data quality apparently is another key area of focus for SQL Server. To that end, Microsoft announced last month that it will acquire Israel-based Zoomix Inc. The little-known startup offers what it calls the Zoomix Accelerator -- server-based software that it says provides a scalable and fast approach to the synchronization of critical data.

"If any of their customers have a need for a powerful matching engine, Zoomix has a pretty interesting product," says Forrester Research Inc. analyst Rob Karel. "It's relatively new; they have some customers but for the most part it's really an early-stage technology that Microsoft acquired."

It remains to be seen whether Microsoft's key goal was to acquire the product or the team and presence in Israel, adds Gartner's Feinstein. "Instead of buying a major vendor of data quality, they bought a development team in Israel," Feinstein says. "It'll pay off in that they get the product that they have to date, but they also get the developers out of it."

SQL Server Maintains Growth

SQL Server GrowthMicrosoft's SQL Server database continued to outpace its larger rivals Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp. in the overall database market in 2007, according to this year's annual database-server market-share reports by IDC and Gartner Inc.

SQL Server revenues grew 16.5 percent in 2007 over the prior year, compared to Oracle, which grew a more modest 14.9 percent, and IBM, which was up just 10 percent, according to Gartner analyst Donald Feinstein. However, Oracle and IBM's revenues come from a much higher base -- $48.6 billion and $20.7 billion respectively, compared with SQL Server's $18.1 billion.

Microsoft's licensing fees tend to be lower than its larger rivals' fees, suggesting even more substantial growth for SQL Server, unit-wise. But SQL Server only runs on Windows, hence limiting its proliferation within the enterprise.

In the Windows server market, SQL Server accounts for a dominant share of 51.4 percent, compared with 28.8 percent for Oracle and 9.8 percent for IBM. In the Windows market, Oracle's growth of 21 percent outpaced Microsoft's 16.5 percent.

Open source databases are another growing factor, though it will be years before they impact licensing fees for the incumbents, Feinstein predicts. "Looking out five years, if open source databases can start to be used in mission-critical situations, they could have a major impact on pricing," he says.

-- J.S.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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