SQL Server 2005 piles it on

Marked improvements in programmability and manageability are just the start

Microsoft's first major release of SQL Server in many years includes such sweeping improvements that it's sometimes hard to see the old SQL Server underneath. Not a single area of the database remains untouched, and many portions have been rewritten from the ground up. Wherever you look -- performance, programmability, security, monitoring, tuning, diagnostics, BI, or system integration -- you'll find significant new features and greater capability.

SQL Server 2005 will provide you with the most comprehensive uptime to date with its online reindexing, incremental recovery, and database mirroring. Online reindexing means that you no longer have to take your database offline for maintenance. Incremental recovery allows you to bring database tables online and use them as they're restored without having to wait for the entire database to restore. Database mirroring allows you to increase your availability by offering automatic fail-over to another server, and it provides true zero-percent data loss. Database mirroring is still in beta for this initial release, but it is available for use.

DTS (Data Transformation Services) has been rewritten from the ground up to become SSIS (SQL Server Integration Service). SSIS not only is capable of handling much larger data loads but also brings a wealth of capabilities scarcely even conceived of in SQL Server 2000. Tasks that used to take dozens of lines of code can now be accomplished with just a few mouse clicks. DBAs will have more transformations at their fingertips -- for maintenance, BI, data mining, and sorting and grouping, just to name a few -- and they'll be able to finish tasks much more quickly and with fewer mistakes.

If you are plagued by compliance regulations such as SAS 70 and Sarbanes-Oxley, you'll like SQL Server 2005's stronger auditing and security capabilities. In addition to a surface area configuration tool and native data encryption, SQL Server now provides self-auditing of schema changes so you know whether your change controls are being utilized. You can also take advantage of your Windows password policies with your native SQL Server accounts.

SQL Server 2005 will improve the development and integrity of your applications with real XML support and CLR (Common Language Runtime) integration. For the first time, SQL developers can store XML in the database without having to shred it into its relational components. XML can be stored in its native format to preserve hierarchical relationships, and it can even be indexed for fast retrieval. CLR integration gives developers easy access to operations that used to be quite difficult, while greatly increasing the speed with which operations can be written and performed.

Finally, new management enhancements not only boost database performance but also make it easier to manage. Partitioning allows you to speed reads and writes, as well as to better organize your recovery plan by placing partitions on different disks. New monitoring tools allow DBAs to troubleshoot performance issues much faster and more accurately than ever before. Dozens of management views, functions, and reports give them the answers they need quickly and in more detail.

These are just a few of the highlights. In almost every way, SQL Server 2005 leaves SQL Server 2000 far behind. As a result, some features -- most notably SSIS -- are nothing like their forerunners. Although DBAs definitely face a learning curve, ultimately they'll find that the new edition's more streamlined toolset offers an easier and more unified management experience. SQL Server developers, administrators, and users gain a much more powerful, flexible, and manageable database.

Microsoft SQL Server 2005
Microsoft

Cost: Enterprise Edition: $24,999 per processor or $13,969 per server (25 client licenses)
Available: Now
Bottom Line: The sweeping improvements in SQL Server 2005 range from easier management, monitoring, and troubleshooting to powerful new development and integration possibilities. There's something here for every SQL Server shop, especially those seeking better performance, availability, and support for larger data sets.

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