Katmai, Orcas Link Could Delay Longhorn Release

The software giant started warning key IT constituencies about that possibility in recent days. Katmai is the code name for the next major SQL Server release, and Orcas is the next version of Visual Studio.

"It's looking like they'll try to coordinate Katmai, Orcas, Longhorn as a single platform release, even if that means a slight delay to Longhorn," said one source familiar with Microsoft's plans.

"There are so many dependencies and other wrinkles that can happen over time. It just makes sense to put these things in lockstep," he noted.

Insiders at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft confirmed that this move is under discussion.

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On Wednesday, Microsoft rolled out Longhorn Beta 3 and said it's on track to release the software to manufacturing by the year's end. But those three letters--RTM--bring with them a lot of wiggle room. Even in this age of electronic software distribution, it can take weeks or longer for code that is theoretically RTM'd to trickle out to distributors, hardware OEMs and other partners.

The official "Orcas" Visual Studio time frame is less clear. The first Orcas beta was released just last week, and Microsoft's official statement of when final product will ship is something like, "When it's ready."

Meanwhile, the next SQL Server, aka Katmai, has yet to hit beta, although many see Microsoft's TechEd event in early June as a likely venue for that news. Very early code has been in the hands of select users for some time.

Publicly, Microsoft has said that after a five-year gap before the release of the current SQL Server 2005, it's trying to get the database into a fairly tight 36-month release cycle. To hit that deadline, the new database would have to ship in the fall of 2008.

Several Microsoft channel partners said they had not heard about the potential release synchronization but added that it could be a good idea in theory.

"All the [early adopter program] and beta stuff has a lot of moving pieces. If you can bring them all out at once and support them as one, that means you have a solid platform," said Frank Cullen, principal of BlackstoneCullen, an Atlanta-based Microsoft partner and database specialist. New releases of one component quite often break installed releases of other code, he noted.

Other partners weren't so sure that the synchronization tactic would address the problem.

"On the one hand, I'm all for stability on the server operating system. Windows Server 2003 is rock-solid, so I'm kind of in the 'if it ain't broke, dont' fix it' camp," said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York, a New York-based IT consultancy.

Yet Brust said he wasn't sure if a converged release would fix that issue. "My observation from writing a book on SQL Server 2005 and seeing that [database] joined at the hip with Visual Studio is [that] these interdependencies can have a cascading effect with delays. So I approach that with caution."

In other words, locking three major products together might prolong delays, rather than decrease interdependencies.

A Microsoft source said Longhorn bits are in good shape, but because of interproduct dependencies it may make sense to hold back and offer a "platform release" of all three key infrastructure products.