Microsoft released the first service pack for SQL Server 2005 Wednesday, fixing dozens of bugs and paving the way for more businesses to upgrade to its latest database software.The update comes about five months after the release of SQL Server 2005, which Microsoft engineered to be more competitive with products from database leaders Oracle and IBM.Most enterprises don't rush to deploy the first version of a big product upgrade, preferring to wait until a few users have tried it out, noted said David Cartwright, a freelance software developer in the U.K. who also evaluates databases. The release of an initial service pack is often a trigger for companies to start upgrading.So far, SQL Server 2005 has proved to be a solid product, according to Cartwright. "I've heard no horror stories so far," he said.As well as fixing around 40 bugs, Service Pack 1 incorporates several new features, including a production-ready database mirroring function, which has been upgraded from an evaluation version in the first release.Database mirroring - in which a copy of a database is ready for use in case the main database goes down - is typically easier to set up than a failover clustering arrangement, Cartwright said. Microsoft said 20 of its customers are using the mirroring capability.The company also added two components to SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services (SSRS), to support enterprise reporting using SAP's business intelligence software. The components are a Microsoft .Net Data provider for SAP's NetWeaver Business Intelligence, and an MDX Query Designer. The functions allow reports to be created and managed from inside an SAP Business Warehouse data warehouse.Service Pack 1 also incorporates a peer-to-peer-like technology for transactional replication. The technology allows subscribers to a database to access up-to-date transactions on other, distributed databases, said David Mitchell, an analyst with Ovum.A master database is replicated with slaves located in other places, which increases response times, Mitchell said. "It's a means of addressing some of the needs for greater functionality on distributed databases," he said.The free version of the database, SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, formerly called Microsoft Database Engine (MSDE), has also been upgraded with a graphical management tool. Administrators without access to special development tools had to use a command line in a DOS window to set up previous versions of the database, Cartwright said."The learning curve has always been a little bit steep," he said.SQL Server 2005 is expected to help Microsoft compete more effectively with IBM and Oracle."Our view is that it's now a substantial competitor to everyone else," said Ovum analyst David Bradshaw. "It's no longer the sort of toy database that you use for relatively small businesses."Service Pack 1 can be downloaded here.