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Microsoft's SQL delay downgrades rental option

Cliff Saran
Microsoft's decision to push back the release date of the next version of SQL Server has highlighted the problems suppliers face in delivering regular software updates through a subscription model while retaining quality.

Last week at the Microsoft Tech Ed annual developers' conference in Dallas, Paul Flessner, senior vice-president at Microsoft's Windows Server Systems division, said the Yukon release of SQL Server would not be made available until the second half of 2004. Flessner said the reason for the delay was "to get the quality assurance cycle right". The decision will mean that the new release will ship more than four years after its predecessor, SQL Server 2002, first appeared.

Although SQL Server shipped before Microsoft introduced its Software Assurance subscription scheme, users would find it hard to justify the cost of subscription for any server product released on a four-year cycle. A Microsoft server software subscription costs 25% of the full software price per year for each year of the subscription, so users would end up paying the full price over a four-year period.

Mike Thompson, principal research analyst at Butler Group, said, "A subscription model such as Software Assurance and quality assurance do not go hand-in-hand."

He said a subscription model encourages suppliers to push out software quickly, often to the detriment of quality. Thompson advised users to seek reassurances from suppliers on the frequency of major software updates when they sign up to a subscription licensing scheme.

Cassandra Nuttall, Microsoft server solutions marketing manager for SQL Server, said that while the full product has not been updated since 2000, Microsoft has released several add-ons to the product. Speaking to Computer Weekly last week, she said, "We will be introducing reporting services towards the end of the year." Available both to users with full licences and those on the Software Assurance subscription scheme, the add-on will provide a reporting engine for SQL Server.

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