Microsoft will next week launch two crucial product updates for corporate users: a new version of its flagship relational database server and an update of the .net development environment.
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The 2005 version of SQL Server, which has not been updated for five years, represents Microsoft's attempt to offer a viable enterprise database alternative to Oracle and DB2.
Visual Studio 2005, which builds on a 2003 refresh of the software, is Microsoft's core development tool for building applications around its .net architecture for web services. It offers the next release of the .net Framework and support for team development.
Microsoft is changing its licensing with Visual Studio 2005. Users will pay for a version of the Team System product based on job function, rather than per-user licensing.
Although defining the various products by role avoids users having to pay for functionality they may not use, Bola Rotibi, an analyst at Ovum, said, "These roles may not map onto your own development team."
Some teams in user companies may be organised so that one individual performs more than one of the Microsoft-defined job functions. In this instance the company would need to buy two licences from Microsoft.
Microsoft said no role-based licence scheme could fit all user requirements, and companies where staff run two or more roles would need to buy the full product.
Commenting on the SQL Server 2005, Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg said it was a considerable improvement on its predecessor but still lacked some features enterprise users might need.
He said, "Database management system clustering for high availability has been pushed off to a future release, leaving Oracle as the only supplier offering a DBMS with a clustering implementation, through its Real Application Clusters."
IDC analyst Rob Hailstone said, "The fault tolerance and failover features allow SQL Server to stand up to enterprise-level use. I would be confident in deploying it in less than extreme requirements."