Microsoft To Provide Common SQL Underpinnings: Gates - InformationWeek

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Microsoft To Provide Common SQL Underpinnings: Gates

At a press event to tout the company's SharePoint collaboration software, Bill Gates said getting the SharePoint metadirectory and Exchange Server "to be pure native SQL is a hot topic right now." Common workflow engines are a different matter, though.

Microsoft brought out its big guns Monday to again show SharePoint—or specifically SharePoint Server 2007—as the focal point for future collaboration offerings and services.

Both company chairman Bill Gates and corporate Office vice president Kurt DelBene were on hand to bless the upcoming release.

They highlighted "rich blog support right out of the box" in SharePoint. And, Tom Rizzo, director of SharePoint showed how users can sync up their personal Outlook calendar items with group scheduling residing on their SharePoint team site. With Outlook 2007 and SharePoint 2007, users can off spot scheduling conflicts and resolve them with bi-directional updates between the local Outlook calendar and the group calendar.

The demo prompted questions later about Microsoft's workflow strategy. Currently, Exchange Server, SQL Server and other products all run their own variants of workflow, while the company is working for on a more general workflow engine to work across product lines.

The questioner wanted to know when Microsoft products will share a common database engine and a common workflow engine. The attendee noted that Active Directory, Exchange Server SQL Server all have their own data engines and other products ride on each. Likewise, SQL Server, BizTalk Server and SharePoint all have their own workflow underpinnings.

Gates acknowledged that on the data management side, getting SharePoint meta directory and Exchange Server "to be pure native SQL is a hot topic right now…[and] the next major release we'll take some significant steps in that direction."

The company has hinted broadly next release of SQL Server, Katmai, will move in that direction.

Gates said workflow poses a harder problem. "Unlike SQL where now we really understand all the needs for hierarchy and notification …and we can move towards a unified approach, the workflow needs of a ten-user workflow development versus the most complex workflow development in different environments, we're going to let there be a little bit of variety in that….It really is not just workflow, it's declarative programming, model-based declarative programming which we're investing in very heavily, but I'm not pushing all the people to have one engine yet. I think we have to go a whole generation of allowing those things to get richer."

Microsoft has said publicly that it is working on a common workflow engine for Office 2007/Vista/longhorn and beyond. The latest news there is that the company is letting third parties work with this code , now dubbed WinFX workflow, before Vista ships

Solution providers have long lobbied for a single workflow engine instead of having to learn the niceties of a nearly a half dozen. But clearly that will not happen over night.

Microsoft is working to incorporate blogging, Wikis and RSS feed support in SharePoint and elsewhere in its portfolio.

Last week a company blogger outlined how Word 2007 will incorporate its own blogging tool.

SharePoint 2007, and the whole Office 2007 (aka Office 12) wave, is slated to be generally available early next year, although customers on volume contracts should get the code before the holidays.

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