Lifting the Curtain on SQL Server, VS 2005

Database and IDE updates add muscle to Microsoft's apps ambitions

Microsoft created quite a stir at its Professional Developers Conference and Business Summit back in September, when it lifted the veil on ambitious plans for stitching together a stupefying array of client, middleware, and server technologies into a seemingly all-encompassing back-office blitz. Although many elements are new, Microsoft ‘s service-oriented enterprise play has been in motion for many years now, stretching back to the bet on XML, Web services, and .Net that culminated in Windows Server 2003.

This week, two more essential pieces fall into place with the releases of the SQL Server 2005 database and the Visual Studio 2005 development environment. Microsoft is also officially launching BizTalk Server 2006, although the process server won’t become available until early next year.

With the long-awaited SQL Server upgrade, Microsoft has been hard at work increasing the database’s scalability. With Visual Studio, Job No. 1 has been to increase the IDE’s scope. In addition to welcome overhauls of Visual Basic and Visual C++, Visual Studio 2005 and the Visual Studio 2005 Team System brings enterprise-oriented design, analysis, testing, lifecycle management, and work-item tracking tools.  The Team Foundation Server, however, which pulls all of this together for large teams, won’t ship until 2006.

Visual Studio 2005 also becomes the place where processes for BizTalk are modeled, and where business intelligence applications for SQL Server 2005 are built. Now that SQL Server 2005 hosts the CLR (Common Language Runtime), not to mention native XML storage, database developers gain vast new capabilities. They can produce .Net managed code that runs as SQL Server-stored procedures and create custom objects for ETL (extraction, transformation, and loading).

Five years in the making, SQL Server 2005 is chockablock with improvements aimed at making the database a better fit in demanding enterprise environments. Data Transformation Services has been completely redone, emerging as the more powerful and flexible SQL Server Integration Services. Beefed up admin and monitoring tools promise to ease management of large and distributed databases. And database mirroring, fail-over clustering, and online maintenance features promise new highs in availability and uptime.

SQL Server finally seems to be a heavyweight contender for managing large, mission-critical databases, according to Donald Feinberg, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

“Microsoft spent the time on 2005 getting the database to where it can compete with Oracle and IBM in the large enterprise applications, and the initial indications are that everything they wanted to do is working,” Feinberg said. “Microsoft is now a serious contender there, no question.”

In Redmond, the SQL Server, Visual Studio, and BizTalk launch is another step in the march on the enterprise.

“The first wave with .Net and Windows Server 2003 was all about connecting systems,” said Steve Guggenheimer, general manager of Microsoft’s application platform development and marketing group. “This wave is about bringing information and process into that. ... The next wave is about individual productivity, whether it’s within the Dynamics apps or within Office 12.”

—Paul Krill contributed to this article.

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