Future technology Arif Mohamed discusses developments users should be looking at.
SQL Server 2005 "Yukon"
Microsoft released an early version of its database SQL Server 2005, Beta 2, to 500,000 developers earlier this month. The product is due to go on sale next year.
SQL Server 2005, previously known as Yukon, will succeed SQL Server 2000. New features include support for 32-bit and 64-bit applications and AMD's Opteron processors. Data management, developer productivity and business intelligence are the functional additions.
SQL Server 2005 Beta 2 introduces a management tool called SQL Server Management Studio. This combines existing management tools with added support for SQL Server reporting services, notification services, XML and SQL Server 2005 Mobile Edition. There is a new encryption feature and integration with Visual Studio 2005.
Mike Thompson, principal analyst at Butler Group, said the new features of SQL Server 2005 offer companies an alternative to databases from IBM and Oracle.
He said the product will be easier to manage, will work better with other Microsoft applications and will make it easier for end-users to retrieve information.
One important change, which will have benefits for companies, is the way the database is embedded. "It is embedded deeper into the operating system, so performance overheads will be reduced," said Thompson.
"If you are a Microsoft shop, the performance gains from having SQL Server 2005 will roll over into easier management. From a security aspect, there will be tighter ties with database security and Active Directory, so there will be two levels of security."
3G mobile services
Business use of third generation mobile services will finally take off next year, according to Jawad Shaikh, senior analyst at professional services firm Capgemini. Shaikh predicted business use of 3G will take off before consumer use. Companies will use 3G technology to get a faster connection to the internet and help workers in different locations share data and move data, he said.
"Some of the established players are correctly placing their initial 3G bets on the corporate market. With an increasingly mobile workforce that is desperate for simple, convenient and secure high-speed data connectivity, 3G can more than plug the significant gap left between Wi-Fi and traditional dial-up connectivity," said Shaikh.
"Among the established players, the first focus for 3G services has been the corporate world: Vodafone, for example, introduced a laptop data card aimed at providing high-speed connectivity on-the-move."
He added that service provider 3, on the other hand, has concentrated on the consumer market, which Capgemini does not expect to take off until 2006.
3G mobile services will help the IT department detect who is on its network and how they are connected. Mark Blowers, senior research analyst at Butler Group, said, "There will be services to do with presence - so you will be able to detect who is on your network and by what method they are connected, so you can instant message them or set up a voice conference, regardless of where they are."
Videoconferencing - a technology that has not become as widely used as expected - will receive a boost from 3G, said Blowers.
"With 3G you will be able to do videoconferencing, probably next year, and the mobile environment will keep pace with the office environment. The cost premium is obviously a factor, but if the applications increase efficiency, people will pay," he said.
Companies will have a further security option later this year with Windows XP-based notebooks that house AMD's new mobile chips. The feature is designed to work with Microsoft's XP Service Pack 2, due out this month, and is expected to reduce the threat of many viruses and worms.
The chips include hardware that prevents malicious code from running on the user's computer. The security feature is already a part of AMD's 64-bit desktop chips.
Anti-virus experts have said the feature will not make notebooks virus-proof, but the XP upgrade will stop many of the thousands of viruses that are discovered each year.
Cisco networking products will have added security built-in from the second half of 2005.
The supplier plans to release a range of routing products and software that supports its Network Admission Control technology. The software allows Cisco routers to evaluate whether a computer's anti-virus definitions are up to date and its operating system is adequately patched before allowing it to connect to a network.
Network Admission Control has been developed jointly by Cisco and anti-virus companies Network Associates, Symantec and Trend Micro.
IDC's European software research director Rob Hailstone said companies should consider some of the newer suppliers for servers using Java and service-oriented architecture (SOA).
SOA software can help companies link existing enterprise applications, which will lengthen their lifecycle and can allow them to communicate with each other more efficiently.
"SOA brings a whole load of opportunities and we are seeing some relatively new companies fitting into the scene. It is worth checking out Cape Clear, Progress with its Enterprise System Bus, and companies such as Fiorano and Cordys," said Hailstone.
Cordys, which has developed its own SOA platform, is due to launch its product in September, said Hailstone. He added that Cordys is interesting because it is headed by Jan Baan, who owned German ERP supplier Baan.
Cordys' SOA software is one of the first to connect applications that use either J2EE or .net.
Hailstone advised companies to also look at Dublin-based SOA specialist Exaltec. The firm's software helps to migrate Oracle Forms, Informix 4GL and Microsoft Visual Basic/SQL Server to J2EE SOA suitable for large companies, he said. It was originally developed as a plug-in to IBM's Websphere Studio, BEA Weblogic Workshop and the Eclipse platform.
Gartner's sees lack of focus in SQL Server 2005
In its report on SQL Server 2005, analyst firm Gartner said, "Yukon is a montage release, lacking a clear focus or vision. Although Microsoft claims that it is delaying the release to ensure greater quality, Gartner believes that the protracted release of Yukon is largely due to the lack of clear focus and direction for SQL Server within Microsoft."
Microsoft has admitted that SQL Server 2005 will not emerge until the first half of 2005. But Gartner said users should plan for additional delays to SQL Server 2005, which could extend into early 2006.
The report said SQL Server customers will find diverse and valuable features in SQL Server 2005, but the release lacks several promised features such as clustering and hash partitioning (a way of sorting data on a hard disc).
Gartner also pointed out that customers paying for Software Assurance maintenance agreements that provide them with the latest Microsoft products may find that their agreements have lapsed before SQL Server 2005 is released. This is likely to make them reluctant to adopt SQL Server 2005, said Gartner.