Microsoft Rolls Out SQL Server 2008, Free Downloads Available

SQL Server database

Customers now can download a fully-functional trial version for evaluation, and Microsoft is also making the software available to the Microsoft Developer Network and TechNet subscribers.

With SQL Server 2008, Microsoft is adding a number of features to improve scalability. New capabilities include support for policy-based management, auditing, large-scale data warehousing, geospatial data and advanced reporting and analysis services, the company said.

"We're looking at the whole issue of business performance management as being increasingly critical, so as far as being easier to use, and more powerful integration into the tool set. It's very important to the work we're doing," said Alan Day, vice president of NWN, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner based in Waltham, Mass. "More and more customers are asking for fully integrated solutions, not just a database, so the ability to integrate tightly with the rest of the stack is very important."

Solution providers said many customers are eagerly awaiting the launch of SQL Server 2008, which is seen as another step toward reaching parity with its competitors.

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"Most of the features are really to get them on par with Oracle and and#91;IBMand#93; DB2," said Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East, a Microsoft partner in Manalapan, N.J. Nevertheless, widespread adoption could still be a year away as customers wait for ISVs to build in support for the new platform, solution providers said.

"In the SMB space, adoption is driven more by compatibility of applications than by desire from the client ... It will be nine to 12 months before we really see uptake," Harrison said. "In the enterprise space, where people are in control of their own destiny, they can make their own applications compatible."

Support for SQL Server 2008 in real estate and payroll applications will be highly sought, Harrison said.

Harrison said another key factor in SMB adoption of the new platform will be Microsoft's impending release of Small Business Server 2008, scheduled for a November launch. "We have to wait and see what unique things they will do to tailor SQL Server 2008 to the SBS product," Harrison said.

While some naysayers still knock SQL server for not performing at the same level as rivals such as Oracle and IBM, Day said the gap doesn't impact most customers.

"Microsoft's strategy has always been to provide 80 to 90 percent of the functionality for a tenth of the price," Day said. "The gap has gotten extremely narrow. We're not running into customers who are running out of performance or capacity with SQL, except on the extreme high end."

Microsoft plans to release seven editions of SQL Server 2008, including Enterprise, Standard, Workgroup, Web, Developer, Express and Compact 3.5.

The 180-day trial version is available for download from Microsoft. SQL Server 2008 Express and SQL Server Compact editions are also available for free download from the vendor. Microsoft has said pricing for SQL Server will not increase with the new release.