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8/6/2008
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Microsoft Releases SQL Server 2008

The upgraded database includes improved data compression, better scalability, and easier management of concurrent workloads.

Microsoft released SQL Server 2008 on Wednesday. The new database software is a continuation of Microsoft's efforts to bolster SQL Server's credibility as a highly scalable database and the cornerstone to Microsoft's evolving "data platform."

"If you added up all of our investments in SQL Server 2008, it was data warehouse scale that got the highest level of investment," Ted Kummert, the VP of Microsoft's data platform and storage division, said on a conference call with reporters and analysts. Microsoft already claims numerous deployments of multiterabyte, heavily accessed databases and has largely gotten over its reputation as a system that couldn't scale, but the company continued that focus in this release.

SQL Server has been selling well -- it's growing faster than competitors, according to the most recent IDC research estimates -- and Microsoft expects this growth to continue. However, though placed in the leadership column of Gartner's magic quadrant for data warehouse database management systems last year, Microsoft still lagged behind IBM, Oracle, and Teradata.

A number of features in SQL Server 2008 focus closely on scalability. New data-compression features let users store more information in less space. There are a number of new features aimed at scaling performance. And a feature called the resource governor, which Microsoft referred to on the call as the top feature of SQL Server 2008, eases management of concurrent workloads by controlling the amount of CPU and memory that applications use.

Other important enhancements in SQL Server 2008 are new data types such as spatial data, better connectivity with third-party apps from companies like Oracle, new integration points with Office, a new report builder, easier encryption, and policy-based management features to enforce compliance.

The release was on track with its initial schedule almost three years after the last version's debut, despite delays that pushed the new software out of the spotlight during the megacelebration of the release of the new editions of SQL Server, Visual Studio, and Windows Server earlier this year.

SQL Server is gradually becoming a centerpiece of Microsoft's suite of data offerings. "In our view, SQL Server is a lot more than a database," Fausto Ibarra, director of product management for SQL Server, said on the call. "It is an integral part of our data platform." Supporting products like PerformancePoint provide added business intelligence capabilities, SharePoint provides a place where data can be shared, and recently announced SQL Server Data Services begin Microsoft's path toward providing ways for developers and businesses to tap into an online data infrastructure.

SQL Server Data Services is a service similar to Amazon's SimpleDB, though it will likely take a more robust shape in the coming months. The SQL Server Data Services team is slated to show off the latest features at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference in October. "Our intent here is to provide a consistent platform such that you as an application provider have a consistent model to think about," Kummert said, possibly hinting that more traditional relational database features could be on the way for the service. "We will provide a consistent data model across all tiers, whether it be the edge, the data center, or the cloud."

There's no change in pricing from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2008, as first announced last year. Microsoft offers a number of SQL Server versions, including the base Standard edition, one aimed at the enterprise, Workgroup, Web, and Developer editions. Two free versions, SQL Server Express and SQL Server Compact, are available to those who only need modest database capabilities.

Microsoft plans to support Windows Server 2008's new Hyper-V hypervisor in SQL Server within 30 days of the database software's release. It also intends to provide enterprises and developers with documentation on best practices of how to use the two technologies in tandem.

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