SAN FRANCISCO—The prolonged SQL Server upgrade cycle and questions about Visual Studio 2005s code quality were of little concern to some of the business application developers who attended Microsoft Corp.s product launch conference here Monday, saying they were ready to start evaluating or even deploying the products.
Many of the attendees were employed by public agencies or small and midsize companies with limited resources for upgrades. For these customers, the releases of SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2005 were fairly timely.
Government agencies dont usually have the money or resources to deal with the rapid-fire product upgrades that seem to be the norm in the software industry, said Pam Sheppard, principal IT analyst with Kings County in Californias central valley.
“We will migrate to the new technology because you cant afford to fall behind … But it does put a burden on development process” because of resource shortages, she said. “The industry changes very rapidly, and the upgrade process can be very difficult for us because of limited resources in staffing, training and funding.”
Sheppard said she has already attended the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference and the SQL Server 2005 road show to learn more of the technical details of the product.
There are valuable advances in reporting and accounting in the new edition of SQL Server 2005, and this is important in county government, where accounting is a major function, Sheppard said. Thus, a move to SQL Server and Visual Studio is a “natural progression for us,” she said.
Sheppard said she is also involved with Web application development for Kings County, so getting access to the latest version of Visual Studio will be useful as well. She said she is not particularly concerned about questions raised in the developer community about the quality of the Visual Studio code.
All software products have bugs, Sheppard said, adding that she is confident that Visual Studio is stable enough to use and that Microsoft will fix the remaining problems.
Ari Gamo, the founder and owner of Saint Ari Solutions, a six-person consulting firm here in San Francisco, said he hopes to upgrade to Visual Studio 2005 to carry out contract development work on a asset management system and a time-keeping system operated by the City and County of San Francisco.
The key advantage in Visual Studio 2005 for Gamos work is that it separates the business logic from the visual presentation layer, which enables more efficient and reliable coding.
Gamo said he would also like to see the San Francisco government upgrade to SQL Server 2005 to support these applications, but that would be harder to convince city officials to spend additional money on the updated server, he said.
Developers Kick Upgrades Tires
Gamo said he wasnt particularly concerned about the length of time Microsoft spent before it was ready to release upgrades to SQL Server 2000 or Visual Studio, but he believed “it was about time for Microsoft to come up with a replacement” for the earlier versions.
In general, he said, he thinks the results have been worth the wait in terms of providing valuable new tools for developers, such as code life-cycle management tools.
“Now I just want to test it and drive it for myself” to see how well it really works, he said.
Tensoft Inc., a Microsoft Gold certified partner and a developer of specialized supply chain management and ERP (enterprise resource planning) software for the microprocessor manufacturing industry, also plans to upgrade to the 2005 server products, said Sandeep Madduri, a business analyst with the company.
The SQL Server 2005 reporting services will be particular valuable for the products that Tensoft develops for its customers, which are “fabless” chip manufacturers that outsource their actual chip production to overseas manufacturers, Madduri said.
Major enterprises also attended the event to discuss how they were deploying SQL Server 2005.
Giant book retailer Barnes & Noble Inc. is deploying SQL Server 2005 to track sales and inventory at its 821 retail stores to improve business intelligence and inventory planning, said CIO Chris Troia. He was one of five corporate IT executives who participated Monday in a Microsoft-organized SQL Server 2005 user panel.
Barnes & Noble had been a large Microsoft customer for years but mainly for small, departmental applications, he said. However, the company decided to examine the possibility of basing the companys main sales data warehouse on SQL Server.
“Some people thought we were crazy,” Troia said. But the company did a proof-of-concept pilot application with Microsoft and was convinced that SQL Server was capable of providing the performance required to support the application.
The bookseller has built a 3TB data warehouse that stores three years of transaction data that will soon grow to a five-year running tally. As result, the data warehouse can track daily transactions and inventory to give Barnes & Nobel analysts and buyers accurate sales and inventory reports every morning.
“Now we are able to do real rates of sales based on what is in stock” and the previous days sales, Troia said, adding that this allows the company to do more accurate out-of-stock predictions as the basis for placing new orders with publishers.
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