Microsoft Sheds Light on Yukon Delay

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2003-06-03

Microsoft Sheds Light on Yukon Delay

DALLAS—Microsoft Corp., influenced by customer feedback, is delaying the release of the next version of SQL Server database, code-named Yukon, so that it can do the necessary quality assurance and because the Visual Studio .Net team has asked for more time.

Yukon was originally slated for a spring 2004 release, but is now expected to be released to manufacturing in the second half of next year, said officials of the Redmond, Wash., company, speaking from the TechEd conference here, where Yukons delay was announced on Monday. A beta will be released sometime this summer, they said.

Paul Flessner, the senior vice president of Microsofts server platform division, told eWEEK in an interview here that Yukon is a big release for Microsoft and that it will take a year to do the necessary quality assurance.

Yukon also involves tight integration around the next version of Visual Studio .Net, code-named Whitby, and the Visual Studio team also felt they needed more time. "Quality is number one for us, and if its not ready at the end of 2004 well ship it when it is ready," he said.

Microsoft is not concerned about the delay as SQL Server 2000 still has "great legs" in the market and Microsoft is adding value to it through things like Reporting Services. "Its still a very competitive product in the market," Flessner said.

Stan Sorensen, the director of SQL Server Product Management, also told eWEEK here at the TechEd conference that the product delay is essentially about quality. "The feedback that we have got from customers is that they expect a rock solid release."

Microsoft wants to exceed customer expectations with Yukon, and the best way to do that is "to give the product plenty of time to cook as well as give Microsoft plenty of time to get up and running and put it into production," he said.

Also, among the many release criteria for Yukon, Microsoft wants the database deployed in full production within the company as well as in production on real systems within customer sites as well.

"The best way to do that is to ensure that customers have plenty of time to actually get that work done. It also gives them plenty of time to give us feedback and to allow us to make the associated changes in the product," he said.

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Tom Rizzo, group product manager for SQL Server, agreed. "Peoples data is golden," said. "Its everything to a corporation. Thats why were taking the time to make sure Yukon, when it comes out of the gate, is rock solid.

IT managers have told us theyd sacrifice features for quality and scalability and enterprise ease of use. … [Thats why] were going to take an extended beta cycle, to make sure we meet the needs of our customers."

To ensure that Yukon uses kid gloves with data, Microsoft is entrusting it with its own data. The company is moving its internal SQL 2000 deployments—including both big and small operations, such as those in use with its human resources intranet site or its payroll operations—onto the database platform. Yukon wont be released until internal operations are up to snuff, Rizzo said.

Thats standard operating procedure for a lot of Microsoft product releases, Rizzo said, although not necessarily for SQL Server updates. Why the extra caution? Because Yukon is a "big, big release," he said—one that will include a host of innovations in three key areas.

Those areas are enterprise abilities, including scalability, availability, reliability, security and manageability; programming interoperability, including integration of .Net technologies into Yukon and .Net enhancements to ensure those development platforms work seamlessly with the database; and business intelligence enhancements that will quadruple the amount of data-mining capabilities in the current SQL Server version.

Innovations on the availability and scalability side will include improvements to the core engine and enhanced query execution in the query optimizer, Rizzo said. Yukon will also feature manageability improvements such as one, unified user interface for managing all data assets—including business intelligence functionality—as opposed to SQL Servers current setup, with the Enterprise Manager UI for access to the relational side of the house and another UI for Microsofts business intelligence products.

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Another manageability gain will be a Pocket PC version of Pocket MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager), to allow DBAs (database administrators) to administer database deployments from their PDAs. This feature will enable DBAs to check server status and reboot remotely and will likely be released at some point prior to Yukons release, Rizzo said.

Yukons delay was also spurred by Microsofts efforts to integrate .Net technologies into Yukon and to enhance Visual Studio so that it works seamlessly within the Yukon environment. Also in the developer arena are forthcoming XML capabilities, including XQuery support, and Web Services integration.

Finally, business intelligence will be huge in Yukon, Rizzo said, with more algorithms to do predictive modeling on what customers buy and what companies can likely sell to them. SQL Server currently features two algorithms—decision tree and clustering. Yukon will pick up an addition six algorithms, including time series.

Yukon will also ship with reporting services that will allow customers to create reports on relational and business intelligence data. The reports designer feature is integrated with Visual Studio .Net, a drag and drop environment in which developers can quickly do things like add charts.

A variety of formats will be supported, included HTML, PDF, Excel, .TIFF, .JPEG and XML—the last of which will enable reporting into another operational system, such as a batch feed into a mainframe, for example.

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