SQL Server 2008 won't be shipping till second quarter next year, but Microsoft is ramping up partner and marketing preparations already.
Microsoft plans to invite its database partners to a Partner Marketing Day Oct. 30 to help them gear up for the Feb. 27 big-bang release of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 -- and the subsequent real launch of the database in the following quarter, according to a SQL Server exec at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver earlier this week.
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"We're inviting partners and others to come in and talk about how to participate in the launch and launch offers," said Kim Saunders, senior director for SQL Server, speaking to a roomful of database specialists Wednesday afternoon.
In addition, Microsoft plans a new "Metro" program to attract and prepare some 2,000 independent software vendors (ISVs) for the new SQL Server, Sanders said. Microsoft also hopes to have 12,000 certified trainers aboard by launch, she said.
Metro is a successor to previous efforts by the Developer Platform Evangelism group called Ascend and Touchdown, she said.
Last spring, Microsoft started doling out some specifics about SQL Server 2008, code-named Katmai. Chief among them was the promise of support for location, geo-spaatial and other imaging data.
At the WPC session, Ram Ramanthan, SQL Server senior project manager, also flashed a slide packed with other proposed enhancements and new features. Among them was TABLIX, an algorithm designed to sort and display dynamic rows and columns easily. Such expandable charts and tables are possible with SQL Server 2005 but not without a lot of work, he said.
Illustrating the geospatial support, Ramanthan ran an application showing a map of east-coast fisheries. Then, cutting the data different ways, he showed the geographic location of fish catches parsed by type of fish, etc.
In theory, the support for non-relational images would help developers and partners build a whole new array of applications that could use images as search criteria.
For example, a customer in the market for a pair of crimson wool pants could search the Web for like items based on an image rather a series of keywords.
While Windows and Office are the primary profit drivers of Microsoft's business, SQL Server is a critical part of the stack, partners said.
"Everything flows from the database," said Robert Shear, president of Greystone Solutions, a Boston-based ecommerce and custom development specialist.
"The new data stuff is interesting. It might mean you could build an app that would have cost $400,000 before for much less. The geospatial thing would probably be of interest to a subset of our customers," he said.
Several of the new features will spark build vs. buy debates among ISVs who might have been tempted to code their own features and who now may just use what's in the database, he said.
With the launch of Oracle Database 11g this week, the enterprise database battle will likely heat up anew when Katmai hits the streets, partners said.
The consensus among database partners is that Microsoft has gained credibility in large accounts since the release of SQL Server 2005 but Oracle remains the player to beat in the enterprise.
The company is now pledging faster and easier database releases. There was an "unacceptable" five-year gap between SQL Server 2000 and 2005, company executives have said.
Saunders reiterated the company's pledge to release smaller and more frequent Community Technology Preview (CTP) releases rather than bulky beta. Each CTP will focus on a select set of features that have been more thoroughly tested than the big-bang betas. CTP 1 came out in June, and there should be one every 60 days or so, she said.
Still, many shook their heads when they realized that SQL Server 2008 will not ship at the same time as Windows Server 2008 and its tool twin Visual Studio 2008.
"That's a big deal. A lot of people are planning around this release and now it's not out till June," said George Brown, president of Database Solutions, a Cherry Hill, N.J.-based database specialist at the show.
About the author: Barbara Darrow is a blogger and regular contributor to SearchITChannel.com.