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Microsoft is less than two weeks away from launching SQL Server 2012, the next generation of its database software, and channel partners are already deep into proof-of-concept development work and gearing up for anticipated upgrade demands from customers.
"It's a core element of just about everything we do," said Adam Worobec, business intelligence practice director at Tallan, a Hartford, Conn.-based solution provider and a Microsoft partner. "It's a critical piece of our business."
SQL Server 2012, code-named Denali for much of its development, is now in Release Candidate stage -- the next to last step in Microsoft's product rollout process before software is released to manufacturing and generally made available to customers and partners.
It's the first major release of the database software since the company shipped SQL Server 2008 R2 in April 2010.
Microsoft has yet to disclose the release-to-manufacturing/availability date for SQL Server 2012, an announcement that presumably will come at the product launch event on March 7, if not before.
Just how much pent-up interest there is in the new database is hard to gauge. One solution provider said that given this is such a major upgrade of the software, he expects many customers to hold off until the first SQL Server 2012 Service Pack is available to be sure all the bugs are worked out. Others, however, said they see a lot of early interest from customers.
While Microsoft is best known for its Windows operating system and Office desktop applications, SQL Server and other business-centric products such as SharePoint and Exchange are accounting for an increasingly larger share of Microsoft's business.
In the company's second fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31, revenue generated by the company's Server and Tools business -- including SQL Server -- increased 11 percent to nearly $4.8 billion. That's the first time that that business' sales exceeded those of the Windows and Windows Live Division, which reported a 6 percent drop in revenue in the second quarter to $4.74 billion.
Microsoft channel partners who resell SQL Server or do development work based on the database said the new release offers enhanced capabilities, ranging from "self-service" business intelligence features to data quality management tools, to more advanced high-availability/disaster recovery technology.
"We've had working demos of the entire environment for quite awhile now," said Duane Schafer, a senior technical architect who leads the Microsoft business intelligence practice at Perficient, a St. Louis-based Microsoft Gold partner and Microsoft-designated National Systems Integrator.
Schafer said tight integration between SQL Server 2012 and Microsoft SharePoint 2010 more effectively combine the database's back-end tools -- such as reporting and analytical services, master data management and data quality management -- with SharePoint's content management, workflow and search capabilities.
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