Microsoft Updates, Broadens SQL Server

Looking to round out its database offerings for smaller and entry-level customers and also to fill in the time before the arrival of its next-generation of Windows, Microsoft unveiled the latest version of its SQL Server 2005 database this week.

Microsoft unveiled an updated line of SQL Server. Offerings include a free entry-level version designed for building simple, data-driven applications; a Workgroup Edition for small to medium-sized organizations; a Standard Edition with data and analysis features for midsize businesses; and an Enterprise Edition for larger companies.

Microsoft also said it will offer different licenses to meet different customer needs and highlighted that users may license SQL Server 2005 on multicore processor hardware without paying the per-core fees that Microsoft’s competitors appear to be favoring.

Industry Changes

The free version of the SQL Server, combined with indications that Microsoft may open the source code of its flagship database product, have been viewed as a reaction to open-source database gains. Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio says Microsoft is simply responding to changing customer demands.

“If Microsoft is doing anything, it is being very pragmatic,” DiDio told TechNewsWorld. “They’re saying to customers, ‘We recognize this is out there and that people are interested in it, so we’re going to be good citizens in the IT industry.'”

Microsoft presented the SQL Server refresh as a response to a changed industry, one that values simplicity and sale price more than it did when SQL Server 2000 was introduced.

“With the new SQL Server 2005 product line, we’ve increased the breadth of our data management solutions to offer more choices to customers,” said a statement from Paul Flessner, Microsoft senior vice president of server applications. “We’re now better equipped to offer solutions that meet the technological and budgetary requirements of our customers.”

Microsoft said its Workgroup Edition would be available for SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005 users, while its Server 2005 Express Edition — a free and redistributable version of SQL Server 2005 — would replace Microsoft Data Engine (MDE) for SQL Server 2000.

Microsoft also got support for the renewed SQL Server 2005 effort from Dell, which will prepackage the Workgroup Edition and Standard Edition for both SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005 in its Dell PowerEdge servers.

Open Source Challenge

According to reports, Microsoft SQL Server product manager Tom Rizzo hinted that the company might make SQL Server 2005 open source. Such a move, DiDio said, would be a response to customer interest and approval of open-source databases, which are becoming a more popular way to begin database use.

The analyst indicated such a move would also constitute Microsoft’s acknowledgement that it could no longer simply ignore or deride competing open-source solutions.

If Microsoft does open the code for SQL Server 2005, DiDio said, the company must do so through its Shared Source program, which could be somewhat confining.

While You Wait

DiDio also indicated the SQL Server 2005 announcements were intended to counter concerns that Microsoft’s latest offerings, particularly its next-generation Longhorn operating system, were getting bogged down in delays.

“When you’re between major product releases, you want to keep your name in public and let people know you’re doing something,” she said.

“This is Microsoft saying, ‘You might not see Longhorn for awhile, but we’re on the move.'”

Srength of the Switch

Meta Group senior analyst Charlie Gary told TechNewsWorld that the advent of cheaper hardware was forcing database vendors to offer lower-priced databases, as evidenced in Microsoft’s SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, IBM’s DB2 Express and Oracle’s Standard Edition One.

The latest Microsoft SQL Server offerings, he added, were also an acknowledgement that many new customers are accessing free and open-source databases because their budgets don’t allow more expensive solutions.

“Microsoft undertands those who are pulling it down for no cost are going to grow up some day, and they’re going to need to switch,” he said.

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