It's a time-honored tradition at Microsoft: The company likes to use its own software, even when it's in the early stages of development. This is known as "eating your own dog food" and it helps Microsoft ensure that its products are good enough to actually use. On that note, the company announced this week that it is now using SQL Server 7.0--which is due to be publicly released in November--for all of its critical business systems, including its SAP R/3 ERP environment, Microsoft Sales, and Microsoft product support.

"We are demonstrating the enterprise capabilities of Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 by running our own multibillion-dollar worldwide business on it," said Microsoft CIO John Connors. "The dramatic improvements to SQL Server 7.0 in terms of reliability, operational environment, OLAP technology, and query performance and storage make us very excited as an IT organization."

Microsoft's SAP R/2 ERP environment is about 80 GB of data, reduced from 140 GB when it ran on SQL Server 6.5. The Microsoft Sales database consists of 150 GB of data; it is used concurrently by over 1,600 employees worldwide. Since moving to SQL Server 7.0, query performance has increased 57%, while backup speed has increased 25%.

Microsoft is in the process of converting its public Web site to SQL Server 7.0 as well. The Microsoft Web site--which is largely database-backed, is one of the busiest sites on the Web, receiving approximately 200 million hits a day.

"I expect the support requirements for any of our mission-critical transactions to drop between 20 and 40% with this company-wide rollout of SQL Server 7.0," said Connors. "\[SQL Server 7.0 is\] just another example of what happens when Microsoft focuses on one area, puts the resources into it, hires very talented people and just plugs away every day.