At its first Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference in Seattle, Microsoft -- which had been holding details about the next version of SQL Server close to the vest -- announced the target ship date and new details for the follow-on to SQL Server 2005. Code-named "Katmai," the next release will include support for unstructured data and will boost scalability and administration, said Ted Kummert, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Data and Storage Platform Division. Kummert spoke to Computerworld recently about the next version of SQL Server, which will focus on enterprise scalability, developer productivity and providing users with pervasive insight about data.
Excerpts from the conversation follow.
What are the main new features you expect to be in Katmai, and do you have a more specific targeted release data other than sometime next year? Will it be released in conjunction with Longhorn and Orcas?
In terms of the when, we're really happy with SQL Server 2005 and how it is doing for customers and the success it has seen. The other thing we have heard from customers is that five years was a bit too long (to develop SQL Server 2005). We made a decision to have releases of SQL Server on 24-to-36-month intervals. [Katmai] will ship in calendar year 2008.
The product delivers on the core security, reliability, performance and availability. It does so at a low total cost of ownership. [Katmai] is going beyond simplicity in administration. It is about automating those maintenance tasks as a way to really radically decrease total cost of ownership.
One of the big investments we are making is in the declarative management framework -- a management of SQL Server and configuration by policy in addition to being able to manage with scripting environments and procedural code. The notion is being able to manage and verify by intent. [For example], my data is configured in a way that is compliant with the policies I want to enforce. We also are adding [support for developers] to raise data up to business terms. I have some data in relational tables that represents a customer object or product object. I can make that available in business terms.
In Katmai, we have a big set of investment around data warehouse scalability. [In SQL Server 2005, we showed] we're no longer just the data mart around the data warehouse. We are performing in those high-scale, mission critical data warehouse deployments today. We are making a big investment to increase scale...in storage, in the engine and the query processors.
Microsoft has announced that Katmai will now support unstructured data. A lot of companies have grappled with BI tools that can't access or analyze unstructured data like call center notes and field technicians' notes. Will Katmai help these types of user problems?
You need to be able to deal with that unstructured data as part of your applications. A great example would be in the medical industry where you want to attach imaging data to patient records. When I am slicing and dicing my business data, I also need to be able to access and view attributes that are unstructured. That is absolutely a part of this.
SQL Server 2005 was delayed way past its original ship date and took five years to develop. Microsoft has said that the entire engineering process for the platform division was overhauled in part because of that. Was this new process applied to Katmai, and what have the major changes been?
The team coming off of SQL Server 2005 did take an end-to-end look at our engineering processes. One of the goals was around delivering these more regular releases and engineering ourselves to deliver on these releases frequently. It is important for us to make a division between the things we want to ship in the next release and also invest in things for the longer term. Along the way, we will make sure we are delivering things on this regular 24-to-36-month cadence and being conscious about where we are doing things for the longer term versus those for the next release cycle.
Is it true that there will be no beta releases of Katmai, only Community Technology Previews (CTP)?
Yes, CTP was very successful for us in terms of releasing SQL Server 2005, and we will be using regular and frequent CTPs.
Characterize the importance of this next release of SQL Server -- is it as significant as the SQL Server 2005 release?
Customers will tell us and will decide the kind of release this was for SQL Server. We have a lot of functionality coming in this release. We're going to be moving the bar significantly in all these areas.