Microsoft Corp. on Thursday released the third SQL Server 2005 Community Technology Preview, an incremental release that is most notable for its advanced reporting functionality.
The latest CTP is yet another baby step toward the much-anticipated and greatly delayed next-generation SQL Server database. CTPs are not considered to be on par with beta releases in terms of quality. Beta 3 is still expected out in the first calendar quarter, depending on feedback on the CTPs, according to a Microsoft spokesperson. That first-quarter time frame is fast drawing to a close, but the spokesperson said that the program "is going much better than expected."
"The benefit of the CTP is that there is less of a learning curve for customers because they get to test and experiment with new features more gradually," the spokesperson said. "While testers were impressed with Beta 1 and Beta 2, the CTP provides greater predictability and helps them manage changes over time. There is also a benefit for Microsoft, because they receive more timely feedback from customers and partners, so the development team can make adjustments more regularly."
The final version of SQL Server 2005 is still expected to ship in late summer. Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., released Beta 2 in July and CTP 2 in December.
CTP 3 includes Report Builder, a new component of the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server 2005, which was code-named Yukon. Report Builder is based on technology Microsoft acquired when it purchased ActiveViews Inc. in April 2004. The self-service, ad hoc report-building client is built on SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services, which Microsoft says will make enterprise reporting easy for users, as well as scalable and reliable.
In addition, CTP 3 includes improvements to Management Studio as well as additional 64-bit support. Also, Microsoft is releasing Service Pack 2 for SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services, as well as new Report Packs for Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains 8.0 and IIS (Internet Information Services) log files.
SP2 for SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services includes security and product enhancements. It also includes two SharePoint Web Parts, which enable users to view reports on a report server through Windows SharePoint Services or SharePoint Portal Server. Web Parts are designed to ease the building of business intelligence portals with SharePoint that include Reporting Services reports. SP2 will also enable users to print directly from Internet Explorer.
Report Packs for Great Plains 8.0 and IIS logs are designed to ease customer report development by giving users templates of commonly used reports that can then be customized. They will be available for free later this month via Web download and will include templates of commonly used SQL Server Reporting Services reports. Microsoft also plans to release Report Packs in the near future for Business Solutions Axapta, Office Project 2003 and Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003.
The Great Plains Report Pack is a set of eight predefined report definition files and a Great Plains 8.0 sample database. The reports cover customer profitability, inventory values and sales commissions. Users can upload and view each report separately and, with configuration changes, can use them against their current Great Plains environments.
The IIS Report Pack contains 12 predefined reports that work with a sample database of information extracted from IIS log files. They will enable users to monitor Web site statistics including visitors, page views and bandwidth in terms of time frames and geographic regions. The database can be populated with data using the Log Parser with the IIS 6.0 Resource Kit.
The new CTP is available now to MSDN subscribers and SQL Server 2005 beta program participants.