Microsoft SQL Server steps up to the mark

Microsoft's next version of SQL Server, code-named Yukon, is aimed at pushing its way further into the enterprise realm.

Microsoft's next version of SQL Server, code-named Yukon, is aimed at pushing its way further into the enterprise realm.

Stan Sorenson, director of server marketing at Microsoft, said that Microsoft expected to issue the first beta version of Yukon in the second quarter of 2002, and to make the final version generally available in the first half of 2003.

The forthcoming Yukon will focus on native support of XML within the database, tighter integration with Microsoft's Visual Studio toolbox, and enabling Web services via the inclusion of the .net Framework and support for the Common Language Runtime. This enables the database to work with more than 20 non-Microsoft programming languages.

Microsoft's current SQL Server still has to convince many that it is right for every enterprise-level job.

"We see few Global 2000 companies running their company on [Microsoft's] operating system and database. But that doesn't mean that in two or three years we won't see Intel technology move into the data centre," said Mark Shainman, senior research analyst at The Meta Group.

Shainman believed Yukon served as a purposeful first step towards establishing Microsoft in the enterprise space, but that the product would need help from other technologies to achieve this.

"The limitation has never been in the [database management system] itself. It is really the scalability and robustness of the operating system layer it runs on," Shainman said.

With the introduction of Windows 2000 early last year, providing support for as many as eight processors, SQL Server saw a significant jump in performance.

"The greatest hindrance to Microsoft moving into corporate data centres is not going to be technology, but process. The reality is that IBM and Oracle can give you road maps and processes on how to run a particular version of their database on a given operating system, hardware platform and in a highly available 24-by-7 mission-critical environment. A lot of those skill sets and processes are not there yet for Microsoft environments," Shainman said.

Microsoft's user base is not as technology-savvy as those charged with running and administering Oracle and IBM databases either, said Philip Russom, an independent industry analyst.

Russom said that in some organisations, a close inspection of the infrastructure would yield the simple fact that a given company is running its SQL Server database on the same piece of hardware that it is running other applications, such as Microsoft Exchange.

"Part of making a database scale up can be with best practices. Scalability can be achieved when best practices are applied," Russom said.

SQL Server users all too often conform to a set of worst practices, such as making changes in live production environments rather than in test beds first, Russom added.

Internal research by Microsoft proved that customers adhering to a set of best practices achieved as much as a 10-times greater availability than customers who failed to strictly follow the best practices.

So when Microsoft released Datacenter Server, its highest-end server, the company decided to sell only to OEMs, who would then offer Datacenter in a pre-packaged, pre-tested configuration.

Microsoft has caught on in the enterprise. A recent report from Boston-based AMR Research showed that Oracle had 50% of the market for running enterprise resource planning applications, while Microsoft filled the second spot with 21% of the market. IBM slipped from 18% to 15%.

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