No price hike for SQL Server 2008, Microsoft says

Microsoft promises no price hike for SQL Server 2008 and lays out data warehousing, data types, management and developer improvements in new database slated to ship next year.

DENVER – On top of new features in the next version of SQL Server 2008 the most alluring attribute should be that the database’s price will not change, according to Microsoft.

The latter news came from Ted Kummert, corporate vice president for the data and storage platform at Microsoft, and drew rousing applause from the about 2,000 SQL Server users gathered at their annual Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Summit.

The per-processor retail pricing of SQL Server 2005 is $24,999.

Kummert had little other news to share but used his time to lay out the foundational elements of SQL Server 2008, which is slated to ship between April and June 30, 2008.

It was Kummert’s first chance to talk to the PASS customer base since coming over to Microsoft’s database business unit in January.

He used a series of demos to whip up excitement around SQL Server 2008 even as more than half of the database’s users have yet to migrate to the 2005 version, which Microsoft considers the migration stepping stone to SQL Server 2008.

“I am here to see what [SQL Server] 2008 does and what it means to move the database beyond relational data,” says Johan Bijnens, system engineer for steel-manufacturing giant Arcelor Mittal, which is based in Belgium. Bijenes says his division is nearly 10% into a rollout of SQL Server 2005. “Once we get the first feedback after 2008 ships then we will start a real evaluation,” he says. But the plan is not to skip 2005.

With 2008 in beta, the attendees were at PASS to evaluate and Kummert said he would do that via demos.

“We’re going to spend some time letting the code speak about where we are headed specifically with SQL Server 2008,” Kummert said. “A lot of this stuff you have not seen yet.”

After a brief tour through the history of SQL Server, Kummet said the community technology preview (CTP) program launched with SQL Server 2008 has allowed users to have a huge effect on product development. He said the June CTP would be followed by two more and that the final release of SQL Server 2008 is still on target for the second quarter of 2008 even though it is being featured in a “lauch event” in February with Windows Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008.

Kummert wrapped his messages about positioning SQL Server 2008 around data warehousing and his observation that corporations are experiencing a data explosion driven by new data types including multimedia. That development is forcing the database to push beyond storing just relational data and to develop new management, productivity and developer tools, he said.

“What’s driving this is the evolution of data types,” Kummert said. “It includes images, stills, video, data from sensors such as RFID, the Web and digitization of existing assets. There is a whole new set of data types that you want to use in your business process applications. There is compliance, policies around retention which brings life-cycle management challenges with it.”

With that in mind, he said SQL Server 2008 would stand on four foundational elements: a solid data platform in terms of reliability, scale and security; operational cost reductions through such mechanisms as self-maintaining systems, support for new data types, and universal quick access to data.

Users running SQL Server 2005 are tracking those developments.

“I am here to look at the BI track,” said Quentin Fleurat, manager of information technology programming for Bresnan Communications, a broadband telecommunications provider in Purchase, N.Y. He also said he is tracking the Filestream feature in SQL Server 2008 that lets users store a pointer in a database used to retrieve unstructured data from a file server, a much faster and cheaper alternative than storing and retrieving that data from a database. Bresnan has a home-grown application to perform that task.

“We retain our customer statements for two years and will eventually have a file system with 17 to 19 terabytes of data,” he said.

But regardless of need, he says an SQL Server 2008 rollout is at least a year away.

“We always wait for the first service pack and then we will set up a test environment and start tracking issues others companies are having,” he said.

Kummert then launched into a series of demos highlighting features around management, the use of new data types, productivity gains for developers, and expansion of the database’s user population.

He showed off the Declarative Management Framework, a new policy-based management framework that ensures mandated system configurations, such as preventing the use of certain database schemas, and support for Intellisense features to simplify administration.

He also showed how Resource Governor, which will ship in a future CTP, lets administrators dedicate various levels of resources per workload.

Kummert also showed how System Center Data Protection Manager supports back up of SQL Server to disk, tape or both at set intervals. And how support for spatial data such as lines, circles and points lets users perform such tasks as visually comparing the geographic locations of customers and sales staff.

He also discussed the Entity Framework that is being added to ADO.Net and aligns with the release of SQL Server 2008. The framework allows code to deal with objects while hiding the underlying complexities of the database.

“We think this is going to provide powerful productivity gains,” Kummert said.

He said another tool in that arsenal is Language Integrated Query (LINQ), which standardizes syntax used to query not just relational data but text files, XML files and other data sources.

Kummert also explained what he calls “pervasive insight,” which is part of the business-intelligence and data-warehousing improvements Microsoft has made around SQL Server 2008 in order to open the platform up to queries from a broader set of users.

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