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SQL Server 2008, the latest version of the Microsoft database platform, is due for release in second quarter 2008. Microsoft Corporate Vice President of the Data and Platform Storage Division, Ted Kummert, talks with Karen Forster, editorial strategy director of SQL Server Magazine, about key features of SQL Server 2008.
Forster: A recent survey of SQL Server Magazine readers showed that 81 percent are still on SQL Server 2000 and only 40 percent are using SQL Server 2005. The big question about SQL Server 2008 has been why Microsoft is releasing a new version now, three years after SQL Server 2005?
Kummert: Two to three years is going to be our release rhythm. I see it as creating alternatives for customers. They then can have another release to choose to deploy on. I actually think customers like having that opportunity. It’s absolutely true that decisions line up with major projects, and major projects don’t always line up with our release cycle. But we offer a choice you can make about your infrastructure and how you’re moving it forward. You can deploy on 2005. Then when 2008 releases, you can upgrade to 2008 and take advantage of the new capabilities.
Forster: Many SQL Server 2000 users are considering just skipping 2005. What’s your response to those customers?
Kummert: We have customers who will make that choice. We have customers who will make the choice to go to 2005 and then upgrade to 2008. We obviously have customers deploying totally new projects around 2008. Customers are going to make these decisions largely around the value proposition of 2008, which is resonating very well with customers.
Forster: Let’s talk about that value proposition. You’ve discussed this release’s four pillars of functionality: mission-critical platform, dynamic development, beyond relational data, and pervasive insight. I’d like to focus on specific features that instantiate those pillars.
Kummert: We’re making significant investment in increasing scalability. That’s scaling storage with features like compression. That’s scaling performance with a whole bunch of things in the engine. That’s scaling end user concurrency with innovative features such as Resource Governor for allocating resources on the box across users. There’s a lot in terms of security. A feature like Transparent Data Encryption is a pretty powerful thing for a customer with an existing application. Transparent means you don’t have to change your app. You can get the value out of encrypting that data associated with that application. When it comes to security and compliance, I always like to talk about the Declarative Management Framework (DMF). A policy-based administration model for SQL Server is very powerful, from both a compliance and a security perspective. One challenge is not only knowing what all of your policies should be, but actually knowing that they’re in place across all of the servers in your environment. We also like to talk about features like All Actions Audited—tell me all the user activity within my box so I have a log of what’s happening.
Forster: Speaking of policy-based administration, what about the functionality that has been available in the Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) tools up to now?
Kummert: Those policies that used to be available in the BPA tool will just be DMF policies. That’s an example of how we’re taking some of those things like surface area configuration and best practices and bringing them together.
Forster: What other features are important?
Kummert: One investment we’re excited about is our new special data types and indices. The indices give you the performance, and the types give you the ability to enrich your application with location-based information—be that geometry or geography. A whole class of applications can be enriched by location-based information, certainly in terms of supporting and handling unstructured data within your applications. There’s the FILESTREAM data type. And we’ve done things with full-text search in terms of bringing the indices down into the engine, which has increased the performance of mixed-mode queries.
Forster: What about the new DATE/TIME data types?
Kummert: That feature was driven directly by customers. There’s a tremendous amount of value when the community sees a particular feature that they’ve always wanted. While a new data type doesn’t always make the headlines, it’s a very powerful thing for customers. We got the same kind of reaction to IntelliSense. It’s one of those daily impact things that maybe doesn’t always get star billing, but people love it.
Forster: One feature that has received some attention is the Performance Data Warehouse (PDW).
Kummert: This feature came from our experience at Microsoft. We looked at all the information we collect when we‘re analyzing a performance problem and thought, “Let’s make that available as a part of this feature. We have a lot of experience in helping customers tune their applications and performance. Let’s just make what we’ve learned from all that a core feature.” PDW is about instrumenting SQL Server in such a way that it’s easier for you to understand the critical information to tune your application.
Forster: What features will be most interesting to the DBA?
Kummert: I think Resource Governor is exciting. Its first design point viewpoint is around data warehouse applications, but it’s useful for any workload where you’re managing concurrency within the workload. It’s a powerful toolset to allocate resources among end users, which translates to reliability and predictability and servicing your end users. I think DBAs will find that exciting. I do think the policy-driven administration model is a thing they’re going to find incredibly exciting. To simplify common administration tasks across the environment, you want to have a policy in place across all your server environments. It’s going to make it very easy to do that across a set of multiple services and to know that things are in compliance or out of compliance. Same thing is true for All Actions Audited, in terms of finding out what happened in the environment and even having automatic mitigation.
Launch and Availability
Forster: On February 27, Microsoft launched SQL Server 2008 along with Windows Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008. But SQL Server 2008 is not yet finished or available. When will it be available?
Kummert: The release candidate is still tracking very well for the Q2 timeframe, with release to manufacturing expected in Q3. Now we’re turning the corner to the customer-driven part of the release. We hope customers will tell us when we’re ready.
Forster: Why is Microsoft launching these products simultaneously?
Kummert: That’s actually the way customers think about and want to think about these technologies. You want to think about your entire application platform, your data platform, your development platform, your development toolset. You think about the value of those at the same time, and the underlying Windows Server platform, as well. Many innovations are being delivered in Server 2008. Improvements in clustering, delivering on the core abilities of security and manageability— all those things from Server 2008 will directly benefit SQL Server customers.
Forster: What goal do you want to achieve by addressing a wider launch audience than is typical for SQL Server launches?
Kummert: We’re taking this opportunity to get the word out about this great product much more broadly into this market—not just to the traditional SQL Server person, but also to the IT generalists and the developers who will come to this launch and will think, “SQL Server is the underlying data platform for my SharePoint, for my CRM app. I can bring these things together and add more value. Maybe there’s a new scenario in which I can use this capability.”