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Microsoft Unveils Next Steps For SQL Server

'Denali' database preview released as the Parallel Data Warehouse appliance finally goes to market.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced the general availability of its long-anticipated, extensively previewed Parallel Data Warehouse Appliance.

Perhaps to avoid an anti-climax, the vendor also unveiled a preview of what will become the next major release of the Microsoft SQL Server database.

The theme running across Microsoft's database news is the promise of scalability, performance and manageability in mission-critical environments.

Microsoft is playing catch up with most of the technologies announced on Tuesday; but the message to Microsoft shops and would-be database buyers is that the vendor can now take them anywhere they need to go -- be it high scale, high performance or high availability -- all on Microsoft's platform and within accustomed cost expectations.

Two and a half years in development and more than six months in preview release, the Microsoft SQL Server R2 Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) will enable customers to scale up into deployments analyzing hundreds of terabytes. The appliance will start shipping in December from hardware partner Hewlett-Packard.

Other hardware partners will follow, including Bull in Europe, but for now, Microsoft is only talking about appliances optimized on HP server and storage hardware.

The PDW database version is list priced at $38,255 per processor, with the appliances typically having 22 processors per rack. Thus, the software-only price per rack is $841,610. Appliance buyers are more accustomed to seeing cost-per-terabyte figures inclusive of hardware. By this measure, Microsoft said PDW will start at $13,228 per terabyte of user-accessible data including estimated hardware cost. It remains to be seen how deep street-price discounts will go.

That sounds competitive at first blush, but probing deeper, Microsoft said the price is based on 3.5X compression. That level of compression is not unrealistic by the latest industry standards; but that puts PDW pricing in the same ballpark as better-established appliance and large-scale data warehousing vendors including Netezza (soon to be acquired by IBM) and EMC, which recently introduced a low-priced appliance based on the database and software gained in this year's acquisition of Greenplum.

There's nothing new or remarkable about the massively parallel processing or high-scalability capabilities PDW brings to the market. In fact, Microsoft is still behind in supporting in-database analytics and in-memory analysis on PDW -- areas where competitors are miles ahead.

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