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Microsoft Extends SQL Server To The Web With Data Services

SQL Server Data Services aims to help businesses avoid much of the costs and complexity of developing and provisioning data-heavy apps and mashups.

Microsoft plans today to introduce an online data storage and query processing service, SQL Server Data Services, that aims to help businesses avoid much of the costs and complexity of developing and provisioning data-heavy apps and mashups.

"There is an opportunity in the data platform to take it to the Internet-scale services space," Microsoft technical fellow Dave Campbell, who took the lead in developing the new service over the last 18 months, said in an interview. "SQL Server Data Services extends SQL Server to the Web."

Amazon S3, meet the 800-pound gorilla.

Though Microsoft has made a gradual foray into cloud computing with hosted business CRM, e-mail, collaboration, and small-business tools, SQL Server Data Services is one of the company's first pushes to help companies offload heavy-duty storage and processing to the Web. A beta of the service will be made available today, with general availability due later this year.

"The greatest impact that services will have on business will come from the inevitable shift toward utility computing within the enterprise," Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie said today at Microsoft's MIX conference. "Over the course of 2008, I look forward to sharing how these platform-level investments will help our enterprise customers embrace utility computing in the cloud."

Campbell said the Internet represents an opportunity to revolutionize the way data is accessed and processed in much the same way that the standardization of network transport protocols helped push formerly tightly coupled databases and the applications that used them onto separate machines in the 1980s.

The long list of Microsoft's target customers for SQL Server Data Services includes small and medium-sized businesses looking to offload costs, developers looking to avoid infrastructure investments for data-intensive apps like mashups, and enterprises that might want easy archival and collaborative access to data sets.

Amazon may have broken innovative ground with S3 as the first to offer online data services, but SQL Server Data Services potentially lays the groundwork for Microsoft to bring more elements of SQL Server, one of its most successful server products and a business intelligence market leader, onto the Web. "Bringing the entire gamut of capabilities for data-driven applications to the Web will be a part of what differentiates SQL Server Data Services," Campbell said. Microsoft's move into this market could force competitors like Oracle to do so as well.

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