The next version of Microsoft SQL Server, code-named Yukon, is set for a mid-2003 beta 1 test and an early 2004 release. Microsoft considers this release to be as crucial to the company's plans as Windows Server 2003, saying that Yukon will be a database server upgrade and also a platform on which Microsoft will base future versions of Active Directory (AD), Microsoft Exchange Server, the Windows file system, and other products. Microsoft says that Yukon is all about programmability, enterprise database enhancements, and business intelligence. Here's what you need to know about Yukon.

Programmability
Because of its deep integration with the Windows .NET Framework and Common Language Runtime (CLR), Yukon will be a significant release for developers, who, for the first time, will be able to use languages other than T-SQL to program the database. In the past, developers would often have to master several languages to be ready for a variety of challenges. For example, a Web developer might use VBScript or JavaScript to code server-side scripts, Visual Basic (VB) or C# to write data access components, and T-SQL to write SQL Server stored procedures. With Yukon, developers can write stored procedures in any CLR language, including C# and Visual Basic .NET. Using this capability, developers can create new user-defined data types and expose stored procedures as Web services natively, a feature that effectively eliminates the need for a middle tier so that Web and desktop applications can target the database server directly.

Business Intelligence
Data mining was a significant new feature of SQL Server 2000, and Yukon will enhance this capability with end-to-end data warehousing and business intelligence capabilities. Microsoft will announce specifics about these features later this year, probably at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC). Tom Rizzo, a product manager on the SQL Server team, says these enhancements will be about "solving the lifecycle issues and rounding out the platform." Stay tuned for more information.

Recommendations
Because Yukon will form the basis for so many important Microsoft technologies and products, you should stay current on Yukon news as the product progresses. Additionally, because Yukon will form the basis of the generational platform between Windows 2003 and Longhorn, Yukon will be accompanied by a major upgrade to Visual Studio .NET 2003, which will include features that specifically target Yukon's new capabilities. One data store to rule them all? For Microsoft, Yukon looks to be that and more.