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Microsoft Squeaks Out SQL Server 2008 Not a Moment Too Soon

By Walaika Haskins
Aug 7, 2008 2:48 PM PT

Following a nearly six-month delay from its original target release date, Microsoft announced the release to manufacturing (RTM) of its SQL Server 2008 Wednesday. The software maker had initially planned to launch the database application in February, but in January said it would have to move the date back to the third quarter.

Microsoft Squeaks Out SQL Server 2008 Not a Moment Too Soon

With the software's code finalized and on its way to production, Microsoft is emphasizing that SQL Server 2008 will still arrive within three years of the release of the previous version, SQL Server 2005. The company had set its sights on putting out a new version within two to three years of that release.

Getting SQL Server 2008 out before the end of the summer was very important for Microsoft, said Noel Yuhanna, a Forrester Research analyst.

"Customers are wanting new features and functionality to support their growing business requirements. [Without the release], they can't -- or else they might move to, say, Oracle or IBM. Microsoft, with SQL Server 2008, is back on track with a 36-month release cycle, which is essential not only to retain customers, but to attract new customers and compete against other players," he told TechNewsWorld.

With this release, Microsoft "has become a top threat for Oracle -- who has been so far considered the leader in databases," Yuhanna said.

Timely Release

Microsoft's previous version, SQL Server 2005, was in the works for five years. The software had been tied to several other product releases. With the SQL Server 2008 release, the company has decoupled the dependencies with other product releases and even some key features, easing the impact of release dates. Top features can now be added in sub-releases, without affecting the overall major release, Yuhanna explained.

Getting the release out the door was also important in terms of Microsoft's credibility, according to Chris Alliegro, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

"After the massive delays SQL Server 2005 had, Microsoft, and especially Ted Kummert (corporate vice president of Microsoft's data and storage platform division), were pretty vocal that it wouldn't happen again. Kummert had said that future releases would ship on a 24-to-36-month cycle, and end of summer is basically the outside limit of that window -- I'm pretty sure he didn't want to be made a liar in the first major release on his watch," Alliegro told TechNewsWorld.

When it comes to Microsoft's SQL Server customers, they would prefer to wait for a quality product than have Microsoft rush the software out the door.

"An interesting question that we'll learn the answer to over the next few months is whether Microsoft compromised quality to get the product out the door," he said. "The SQL Server team has traditionally been willing to take as long as they needed to make sure releases were solid. At this point, I don't think there is any particular reason to think Microsoft cut corners, but they definitely changed the development and test process, and that always carries risks."

Out of the Box

Deciding to wait should turn out to be a positive for Microsoft because SQL Server 2008 is "a good, solid release," Alliegro noted. The release contains "interesting features for developers and administrators, and some things that could help SQL Server continue its march up-market."

SQL Server 2008 is "in line with what customers are wanting -- support for stronger security, higher performance, integration, availability and manageability," said Yuhanna.

"The new policy-based management [feature] is critical, especially when dealing with thousands of SQL Server instances. It provides better control and improves the DBA's productivity. Also, as enterprises scale their database, the need to optimize performance is critical. SQL Server 2008 delivers intelligent troubleshooting capabilities," he continued.

Microsoft now offers features such as improved support for spatial data, reporting, data analysis and integration to heterogeneous sources such as Oracle, according to Yuhanna.

Price-wase, SQL Server 2008 represents a good value, according to Alliegro.

"SQL Server is pretty much the hands-down winner in any dollars-per-unit performance or features-per-dollar kind of benchmark. It's a slam dunk for [small to medium-sized] companies, and its market share there supports that. It's a good product for organizations of almost any size looking for a full-featured database engine or a [business intelligence] platform at most scales. Again, the place where it's still playing catch-up a bit is as a database management system or data warehouse system for the highest of the high-end applications," he explained.

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