One of the messages of Microsoft Corp’s Visual Studio 2005 launch this week was that SQL Server 2005 is ready for prime time, but the messaging went beyond just scalability.
Quoting benchmarks showing tripling SAP workloads and other stats that beat IBM WebSphere on Linux using IBM’s own metrics, Microsoft is saying that SQL Server has reached parity with Oracle and DB2.
Naturally, there is room for argument when you consider Oracle 10g’s highly distributed, grid-focused features.
But in other respects, SQL Server 2005 fills in some useful blanks. For instance, it provides full support for the .NET Framework and web services for the first time. Although that come as a minor shock to some observers, since the .NET framework has been out nearly five years and is now in version 2, until now, SQL Server could only execute its own TSQL calls natively.
In SQL Server 2005, you can now write stored procedures and user-defined functions in any .NET language or as WSDL (Web Services Definition Language). And, you can make calls using .NET languages or SOAP web services requests straight to the database. In turn, SQL Server’s security features will also support WS-Security to authenticate calls to the database.
Additionally, SQL Server 2005 has added several other web services friendly features, including XQuery support (XML query). Additionally, with XML recognized as another data type, it could be indexed separately, using path commands to accelerate querying. Or you can merge XML and conventional data stored separately into a common index.
SQL Server has also unified its assortment of BI (business intelligence) features that were formerly standalone, using different toolsets. That includes report generators, OLAP services, and data mining, now called predictive analytics. In SQL Server 2005, they are all developed using the same tooling from a common front end.
Beyond unification of BI tools for software developers, SQL Server 2005 introduces a higher end Report Builder for end users that has a WYSIWYG front end that looks like Microsoft Office. Instead of application developer-oriented metaphors or artifacts like data series, the user-oriented Report Builder shows a tree view of files that is similar to Windows Explorer.
With each of these features integrated to the server, the resulting reports, OLAP slices, or data mining analyses can easily be shared with colleagues.
Integration with office applications is streamlined through new under the hood features enabling the forthcoming Office 12 suite to connect directly with live SQL Server databases without requiring writing of SQL commands or parsing of large data strings. For instance, a new data bar in Excel 12 demonstrated to the audience was able to retrieve live data from a SQL Server production database.
SQL Server’s scalability was improved through a series of tweaks and a new table portioning features that enables developers or DBAs to physically split off different parts of a huge table among multiple servers, while still presenting a single logical view.