I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that the next major release of SQL Server is getting closer all the time. We'll soon have plenty of great functionality to build solutions with and I'll have nifty new features to write about during the next few months. The bad news is that Microsoft has officially named the new release SQL Server 2000. But I'd much rather get the long-promised support for cascading declarative referential integrity (DRI) that SQL Server 2000 includes than a better product name.

SQL Server 2000 Beta 1 is now in the hands of about 750 testers. Expect to see a wide Beta 2 release sometime in first quarter 2000, and Microsoft is still promising that final bits will ship by the end of the second quarter. That schedule gives you just enough time to learn about Windows 2000 (Win2K) Active Directory (AD) so you can make full use of SQL Server 2000's coolest new management features. Here's a partial listing of the neat tricks you can perform because of Win2K AD's integration with SQL Server:

  • Identify when a rogue (or progressive, depending on how you look at it) department installs a new SQL Server system on your pristine corporate network. You know darn well the department will come begging for support eventually, so you might as well know about the new systems from day one.
  • Provide true location independence for connecting applications to databases, even if you’ve moved the database to a new server.
  • Determine when someone has upgraded different pieces of database software, or perhaps even worse, when they haven't.
  • Track when people have added new databases or OLAP cubes to databases anywhere on a server.
  • Check which data sets are available for replication anywhere on the network, without knowing your servers' names or locations.

Several weeks ago, I encouraged you to starting learning Extensible Markup Language (XML), and last week I painted a picture of doom and gloom because we need to learn so much new material. I'll get back on my learn-or-die soapbox this week by pointing out that you won't easily be able to use the powerful AD-based management and configuration features in SQL Server 2000 unless you acquire AD and Win2K administration skills.

DBAs with inadequate Windows NT configuration and management skills cause many common SQL Server administration or security problems that users encounter. The NT OS is called a platform for a reason—it's a foundation we use to build solutions on, and anything you build will be slightly unstable and less feature-rich until you have at least a basic understanding of the platform you're using.

The good news is that Win2K and AD provide powerful tools to help us configure and manage our SQL Servers. The bad news is that we have lots of work ahead of us to retool our Windows skills so we know how to effectively use the tools integrated into our platform.