Microsoft on Wednesday announced that it had completed development of its SQL Server 2008 database server and business intelligence (BI) platform, and had released the product to manufacturing. SQL Server 2008 is the follow-up to the previous version of the product, SQL Server 2005, and it includes numerous advances and ships in a wider array of product editions.

"SQL Server 2008 is the only major database that includes comprehensive, tightly integrated functionality for data management as well as advanced business intelligence out of the box," says Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of the Data and Storage Platform Division at Microsoft. "By offering a complete solution, we save customers time and money and allow them to focus on deriving the most value from their data assets."

SQL Server 2008 is available in seven different product editions. New to this release is a Web edition, which targets Web-based hosting companies. But the biggest surprise in SQL Server 2008 may be that it's here already, just three years after SQL 2005, which was also a major release. Microsoft says that evolving customer needs, not just around data storage but also in BI, demanded another major update.

There's evidence, too, that SQL Server customers aren't fatigued by the rapid release cycle. Microsoft says that over 450,000 partners and customers downloaded pre-release versions of the product, and there are already over 75 large-scale SQL 2008-based applications in production."It's clear that customers and partners are excited about the capabilities now available in SQL Server 2008," Microsoft notes.

As previously announced, Microsoft did not raises prices between SQL Server 2005 and 2008. Free versions of the product, SQL Server 2008 Express and SQL Server Compact, are now available for download (http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver) and MSDN and TechNet subscribers can download evaluation versions of other SQL 2008 product editions now.