Microsoft\u00a0has yet again pushed back the scheduled release of the next version of SQL Server -- codenamed Yukon -- saying it needs more time to test the software.The database is now expected to ship in the first half of 2005, from a previously rescheduled date of the second half of 2004. The slip has also resulted in the delay of the next version of Visual Studio .Net, codenamed Whidbey, which provides the development tools to create applications for Yukon. Now Whidbey, which also was scheduled to ship at the end of this year, will slip to the first half of 2005.Microsoft is planning to release the second beta of Yukon before July of this year and now plans a third to allow customers to further test the software. The third beta also will be a public beta open to all Microsoft customers.\u201cWe wanted our [joint development partners], those 15 to 20 customers, to deploy beta 3 in production,\u201d says Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server. He says those customers will sign-off on the software before it ships. Rizzo says beta 3 would be feature-complete and could be thought of as a release candidate, which is software deemed worthy of release but sent out for a last round of testing.\u201cWe want [the partners] to run their SAP and PeopleSoft systems against Yukon,\u201d Rizzo says. \u201cThe database is the lifeblood of a company, and we want to do it right instead of pushing it out the door.\u201d Microsoft is already running Yukon internally and will bring its ERP, data warehousing and line-of-business applications onto the database before it officially ships.Yukon is Microsoft\u2019s next-generation database focused on large-scale enterprise data management and business intelligence. It will support native XML and enhanced Extraction, Transformation and Loading (ETL) tools, as well as security and scalability improvements.The underlying technology will be streamlined with the WinFS storage features being developed in Longhorn, the next version of the operating system, and potentially with the next version of Exchange, previously codenamed Kodiak.Rizzo would not comment on the impact that Yukon\u2019s slip might have on those products.The repeated delays of Yukon have also caused Microsoft to rethink the delivery of other technologies. Earlier this year Microsoft squeezed Reporting Services out of the database and released it separately for use with SQL Server 2000. IBM, Oracle and the other main database vendors already support reporting capabilities and Microsoft could no longer wait for Yukon before upgrading its own software to boost its business intelligence platform.This is the third time the ship data has slipped. In January 2002, Microsoft said Yukon would ship in the second half of 2003. Instead, Microsoft shipped the first beta in July 2003 and said general availability would be in fiscal year 2004, which runs July 2003 to June 2004. The date was further revised last year when Yukon\u2019s ship date was slated for the last half of 2004. Insiders say issues around the SQL Server Slammer worm in 2003 delayed Yukon development.The second beta of Yukon due in July will be accompanied by the first beta of Whidbey. Whidbey will be put into a second beta cycle during Yukon\u2019s beta 3 cycle.Microsoft on Wednesday sent a message to customers and testers informing them of the delays and the fact that Yukon\u2019s official name will be SQL Server 2005 and Whidbey would be called Visual Studio 2005.