SQL Server becomes a contender

SQL Server becomes a contender

IT sites with data-warehouse and decision-support requirements will find Microsoft's SQL Server 7.0 hits the mark. The third and final beta version prior to release of the product shows great refinement, stability, and ease of use.

My beta copy did hiccup a few times during my tests, but overall this SQL Server version is solid. Microsoft has also chosen to bundle its online analytical processing (OLAP) server, code-named Plato, with this version of SQL Server.

The combination of SQL Server and the Plato OLAP server in a single package is unique to Microsoft. Customers purchasing competing offerings, such as those from Oracle, need to purchase the database and OLAP products as separate pieces.

Microsoft has improved SQL Server's query processor with parallel execution, index intersection, and hash joins that customers with large data stores will find useful. I also liked the fact that I could use both ODBC and OLE DB in my distributed query tests with great results.

Impressive search feature

Equally impressive was the newly supported full-text search feature. Although the feature does not install by default, I could add the feature easily and found it well-implemented.

Administrators will like the profiling and analysis tools that are available for SQL Server and Plato. For example, I found the SQL Profiler helpful in determining which of my queries were not performing well.

Plato administrators will also find the Cube Usage Analysis and the Usage-based Optimization tools to be time-savers. The Usage Analysis shows log information on client OLAP sessions, including information such as response time. The Usage-based Optimization enables the creation of aggregations based on actual system usage.

Both SQL Server and Plato show good refinements in the installation, documentation and language support areas. The installation process has been streamlined, and the provided examples and tutorial materials will be quite useful for both experienced DBAs and those new to OLAP.

Peppy performance

My beta copy of SQL Server was not yet optimised for performance, so it is difficult to judge how well the product succeeds against the performance of rivals. However, with the exception of a couple of hesitations in Plato, my tests showed performance to be fairly peppy.

SQL Server 7.0, combined with Plato, is a highly viable solution that is well worth a look. Those who have data-warehousing or decision-support requirements should definitely take this version of SQL Server for a test drive. by Maggie BiggsSQL Server 7.0, Beta 3This significant update boasts major enhancements, such as heterogeneous data import and export services. SQL Server is now combined with the Plato online analytical processing server to give IT shops a complete solution.

Pros: Easy to use and administer; full-text search capabilities; analysis and profiling tools; provisions for application customisationCons: Limited platform support; minor beta bugsPlatforms: Windows 9x, Windows NTPrice: No pricing available yet.


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