Microsoft Corp.s long-awaited SQL Server 2005 represents significant change for administratorsthe database server includes several new features that add capability and improve performance, but they increase complexity as well. Click here to read how Microsoft is integrating SQL Server with Visual Studio 2005.Five years in the making, SQL Server 2005 is a completely different database server than its predecessors, with a new management interface, improved uptime and better support for XML. In large part, these improvements make management easier and the server more suitable for enterprise applications.For companies that already have SQL Server-based applications in place, there is a significant benefit to upgrading, and eWEEK Labs saw no ill effects when we upgraded existing applications. However, the differences between SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005 are major, and we recommend that companies making the switch invest in training to ensure a smooth transition. We tested the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server 2005, which includes a run-time shell of Visual Studio 2005 for the SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio. (eWEEK Labs review of Visual Studio 2005 is on Page 42.) This packaging gives developers, administrators and database analysts better access to SQL Server, but theres a fairly heavy cost in that the new management framework can be unwieldy. Microsoft has made SQL Server more accessible to more organizations by providing a variety of pricing models. SQL Server 2005, released last month, is available on a per-processor or per-server and CAL (client access license) basis, and a CAL can be either a user or a device. In addition, Microsoft now has four versions of the database, ranging from the free Express to the Enterprise Edition, which costs $24,999 per processor or $13,969 for a server and 25 CALs. Read more here about the various versions of SQL Server 2005. With SQL Server 2005, Microsoft clearly aspires to compete with Oracle Corp. for the biggest enterprise applications. SQL Server 2005 doesnt have Oracle Database 10gs management capabilities and scalable architecture, but Microsoft has made considerable strides in automating SQL Servers management tasks and improving performance tuning and uptime. Oracle still sets the standard, but SQL Server 2005 surpasses SQL Server 2000s midtier limitations. Click here to read eWEEK Labs review of Oracle Database 10g. However, by making management more complex, Microsoft has discarded the one significant advantage it had over Oracle Database 10g and IBMs DB2ease of administration. This makes DB2 and Oracle Database 10g look all the more attractive for their broader choice of development frameworks, management interfaces, and server hardware and operating systems. SQL Server 2005 runs on Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003; optional components require additional Microsoft technologies. For example, reporting requires IIS (Internet Information Services) and ASP.Net. Next Page: Data availability.