Ted Kummert, corporate vice president for the data and storage platform at Microsoft, came over nine months ago from Microsoft's security, access and solutions division to lead the SQL Server effort and usher the 2008 version into general release. Kummert says performance and scalability improvements will continue to put pressure on rivals like IBM and Oracle. In an interview with Network World senior editor John Fontana, he also discusses goals around a new release timetable, prescribed upgrade paths for users, a services element and virtualization.
You have put a lot of focus on data warehousing in SQL Server 2008. Is that the push to further crack the notion that IBM and Oracle are the database giants for large enterprise?
We believe the numbers speak for themselves in terms of unit share of the market for SQL Server; the numbers speak for themselves in terms of growth in the market. We have had an approach for a while that we were building a data platform that serves customers of all sizes. Everything you are going to do for the mid-market customer to make things easier, the enterprise customer is going to like. [If you want] proof points around scalability, proof points around performance, we have them. If you want to look at high transactional throughput scenarios, data warehousing scenarios, we have them.
In terms of SQL and your plans for delivering new versions every 24 to 36 months (SQL Server 2005 took five years), how has that changed the internal development process? Are you thinking differently about what is in each new version and how it is delivered?
Part of enabling customers to get value out of this 24 to 36 month release cycle is us delivering on that incremental upgrade experience. We need to deliver the experience that if you are deployed on the previous version, you can upgrade and take advantage of the new capabilities vs. having to think about how that is going synchronize with some entire infrastructure or application rewrite. One of the things we have been working hard on is the upgrade experience from 2005 to 2008. In terms of our internal development processes, one is shifting to a [Community Technology Preview] (CTP) model, delivering things to a broader audience over time, which gives us more customer feedback. We have reoriented around how we develop end-to-end scenarios for things like data warehouse scale. There is a set of features that are layered underneath that, and we do all that work at once. So in the CTP, customers can evaluate it and give us feedback. We are at the same time working on innovations that are not going to be in this release. The longer throw innovations that don't fit in the current release cycle will come out in the next one.
What's the upgrade path for those users not on SQL Server 2005?
We're generally guiding customers to get to 2005; that is the best way to get to 2008. We are working hard on the upgrade experience to support that. That is the best path moving forward.
What about this "data platform for the enterprise" moniker you use. Do users need to have SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 in place for that concept to really light up?
A lot of what we show is in the latest version of our products. Visual Studio 2008 and the .Net Framework 3.5 bring new features to the data platform. But SQL Server 2008 will work with Visual Studio 2005. So we have new scenarios that light up in the new versions and we are also supporting where customers are at.
Steve Ballmer said in July that every piece of Microsoft software will have a services element. What does that mean for SQL Server?
This is an area where we are still talking to customers and partners and thinking about what our plans are going to be in the future. SQL Server today is the structured data platform for all the MSN and Live properties. We have other customers such as MySpace that run their services infrastructure on SQL Server, so from a platform perspective we are there. When we think of services elements, whether they attach to SQL Server or to other services we are going to deploy over time, that is a place where we are planning.