Microsoft is pushing out a 64-bit database with performance it boasts will rival those of Unix-based systems along with greater ease of use and lower cost.
Microsoft will ship the SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition as part of its launch of the Windows Server 2003 platform, following in the footsteps of Oracle and IBM, which have offered 64-bit versions of their databases for the Unix and mainframe platforms for years.
Oracle also announced the availability of an optimised version of its Oracle9i Database Release 2 for 64-bit Windows Server 2003.
This 64-bit Microsoft database now gives customers who need an enterprise-strength database a choice other than the Unix platform, said Sheryl Tullis, product manager for SQL Server.
"For customers that need high-powered computing, this makes it attainable without the upfront maintenance and management costs of Unix systems," she said.
Tests indicate the database will have 512Gbyte of addressable memory, double what was available under 32-bit SQL Server.
One SQL user has gone live with 64-bit SQL.
IT staff at JetBlue Airways have been live since December on a 64-bit SQL Server database that supports the company's frequent-flyer application, said chief information officer Jeff Cohen. His staff is also in the process of building a 64-bit SQL Server-based data warehouse to run customer analytics.
The airline is simultaneously running 32-bit SQL Server to support internal business applications, as well as an Oracle database for special aviation applications.
Cohen said that when using the 32-bit SQL Server for the frequent-flyer application, JetBlue had to keep adding more servers and processors to maintain performance.
With a 64-bit architecture, the company was able to shrink a three-box Proliant system with 12 processors to one four-way Hewlett-Packard box.
"We were very thrilled by performance," said Cohen, who said that 64-bit SQL requires only 10% to 20% CPU utilisation, as opposed to as much as 60% with 32-bit SQL.
A couple of analysts had mixed views about the release.
Outside of a very few organisations that have a need for "serious number crunching", there will be a limited demand for 64-bit SQL Server, said James Governor, an analyst at consulting firm RedMonk.
"It's the same as ever with 64-bit. It's a technology in search of a mass market application. 64-bit is a 'nice to have', not a 'need to have' in many cases."
Governor also questioned how many of Microsoft's application partners have optimised their software to exploit 64-bit SQL.
According to Tullis, Microsoft has already has signed business software suppliers Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft and SAP.