Microsoft has big plans for SQL Server 7.0, which will run on Windows 95 and 98 machines in addition to the NT Server and Workstation boxes the previous version supported. But SQL Server's push into the mainstream is even more far-reaching than that: Microsoft is positioning Access 9--the version of Access that will ship in the next version of Office--as a front end for SQL Server, and it touted SQL Server/Office integration this week at the TechEd conference.

Access 9 will connect to SQL Server using OLE-DB (a technology that will eventually replace ODBC) and completely bypass the Access "Jet" engine, allowing Access to be used as a SQL Server development tool.

"It's a pretty significant move in our efforts to prepare the marketplace for SQL Server 7.0," said Doug Leland, lead product manager for SQL Server. "This is a breakthrough release, and we feel it will be incredibly important to the customer base to help them ramp up on the technology."

More importantly, the Windows 95/8/NTWS version of SQL Server will be included with Office 2000, as the next version of Office is likely to be called