SQL Server, present and future

SQL Server, present and future

Microsoft is set to unveil the latest iteration of its relational database SQL Server version 7.0 at the Comdex/Fall show in Las Vegas this week.

The release marks an attempt by the software giant to make relational database technology more accessible, and hence, attractive to a broader range of end users.

In addition to offering much more complete data warehousing capabilities, SQL Server 7.0 also represents improvements in the database's ability to run high-end applications, to enable electronic-commerce and to facilitate mobile computing, Microsoft said.

IDG's Clare Haney talked to Doug Leland, Microsoft's group product manager for SQL Server, on a variety of topics related to the upcoming launch and the database market in general. The topics included the feasibility of using Java in future versions of SQL Server, as well as some clarification of Microsoft's chairman and chief executive officer Bill Gates' recent remarks on integrating facets of the database with the Windows operating system.

IDG: Do you have any plans to use Java in SQL Server?

Leland: We love Java. Java is a great language and we support Java development. Developers can use Java, C++ etc to build components that run with Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) and can be very easily taken to SQL Server on the back end.

In terms of bringing Java programming into the database engine, we have a different strategy to Oracle going forward in a future release of SQL Server. The challenge is that there's a limited number of programmers out there who understand how to develop using Oracle's PL (programming language)-SQL or Microsoft's Transact-SQL. We want to allow existing programmers to build server logic.

Applications moving forward are not fixed on a single programming language, so we must have a more language-independent approach.

Developers want to build in the language they're familiar with. Today, we offer full support for building applications in the middle tier. In a future version of SQL Server, we'll allow for migration of components to the database tier.

What is Microsoft offering or planning to offer in the way of migration schemes to SQL Server from rival relational databases?

We've launched a number of programs over the past 24 months. For instance, we ran a Sybase migration program in 32 cities around the world. It was quite successful. With the shared heritage we had - as companies of the core Sybase installed base of SQL Server 4.9 and System 10 - a lot of customers didn't migrate to System 11. The migration between Sybase and Microsoft's respective SQL Server databases was really easy. [Microsoft and Sybase originally worked together to develop SQL Server, then the joint-development relationship ended, and both companies developed their own database, with Sybase renaming its offering Adaptive Server.] We had some really significant wins with customers and ISVs [independent software vendors] who were based on Sybase. You will see us over the next three to four weeks launching migration programs covering a wide breadth of database vendors.

Why launch SQL Server 7.0 at Comdex? Is it a signal that the show is expanding beyond its PC roots to become a more enterprise-computing event, or is it indicative of the melding between the desktop and enterprise worlds?

The show demographics have been changing over the last two to three years. Comdex is becoming a really popular show for IT and business-decision managers to attend to collect information. A lot of traditional database shows are not as popular as they have been in the past, and in the US they have downsized pretty dramatically. Comdex is the right platform or vehicle to deliver the SQL Server message. It's an end-user empowerment message. We're helping the common man to get access to the data stored in relational database management systems.

What about Gates' recently reported comments suggesting that in the future Microsoft may embed database functions in the Windows operating system, and that the SQL Server could one day become the dominant file system for Microsoft software?

What Bill was really calling for was for the file system to have better storage for structural data and much improved retrieval of data - functions that traditional databases do very well. He was not saying embed SQL Server in the operating system, but that there's a need for some technology to exist in the OS to enable better query and retrieval.

Do you feel that the industry debate over the merits of object/relational versus pure object-oriented database technology has already been decided?

The marketplace has kind of answered that question. Informix pretty much hung its hat on and bet its business on object/relational technology. There was a clear response from the market that the technology was not interesting at that time. Philosophically, maybe the technology was too early and maybe it wasn't done well enough - the tools were not there to support object/relational databases.

The market stood up and signalled that the technology was not ready for prime time. You just have to look at the number of sales for pure object-oriented databases - it's incredibly niche - and the debacle that was Informix.

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