Microsoft Clarifies SQL Server Ship Date

The feature-rich database update is still on schedule, Redmond officials say, although the ship date of "summer" has been redefined.

The ship date for Microsofts massive database overhaul hasnt slipped again, per se; rather, Microsoft has redefined what "summer" means, according to Tom Rizzo, director of SQL Server product management.

"What we heard is summer is confusing to a lot of people," said Rizzo, in Redmond, Wash. "We didnt change any internal dates. Our development team is progressing on the schedule we laid out internally. … Australian people were asking, American summer? Australian summer? We wanted to make sure the time frame is clarified around the world."

Microsoft Corp. last week announced that both Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 would ship in the second half of the year.

Slipping dates are par for the course. Development on SQL Server 2005, code-named Yukon, has dragged on for five years, with multiple major and minor delays strewn along its path.

The companys first references to the update were in October 2000, when Microsoft cited spring 2004 as Yukons ship date. Blaming .Net integration issues, Microsoft in June 2003 pushed the ship date until the second half of 2004. Then in March 2004, the date of SQL Server 2005s release crept up to the first half of this year.

These major delays have been sprinkled with minor delays: Yukon Beta One was originally promised for the first half of 2003 but didnt come out until July 2003. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on Beta Three, promised for the first quarter 2005. While the beta has mere days to show up on time, Rizzo said that Beta Three is indeed "imminent."

/zimages/2/28571.gifTo read about Yukons integration issues and its earlier delay, click here.

Microsoft in the past has pointed to integration with .Net as a factor thats contributed to the slowdown. Another thing to take into account, Rizzo said, is the breadth of the coming database update.

"The key thing is, were innovating," Rizzo said. "The breadth of the product, thats easily [worth] three releases from Oracle [Corp.] and two from IBM. When I talk to customers and give them an overview of SQL Server 2005, they are amazed at the level of functionality added to the product," he said.

Added functions include partitioning; data encryption; the new Express Edition; enhancements to business intelligence, including five new algorithms for data mining; and developer productivity enhancements with .Net, XML and Web services integration.

"Its enough for a customer to chew on for a year," Rizzo said.

Others point to less positive causes for the delays. John DiFucci and John McVeigh—respectively, managing director and analyst at New York-based investment bank Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc.—pointed to personnel turnover at the product management level over the last four years as well as to the loss of Yukon developers to the team thats working on Windows File System in prepping the Longhorn operating system. (Note: Bear Stearns lists Oracle as a paying client.)

/zimages/2/28571.gifSome beta users defend SQL Server 2005 against a report suggesting scalability problems. To read more, click here.

The charges are unfounded, Rizzo said. "We had one shift: [former Vice President of the SQL Server team] Gordon Mangione left to go to the security unit, but that was [Microsoft] tapping him to go to the security space. We have such a stable of talent in SQL Server, we want to spread it around" the company, he said.

"If you look at SQL Server from the beginning, Senior Vice President Paul Flessner, hes been on the job at the highest level until now," Rizzo said. "Our general managers are the same across the product. Any product, across its lifetime, youll see things shift. People come, people go. But distinguished engineers such as Dave Campbell have been on SQL Server for the past 10 to 12 years. Its the same executive staff on the product for a very long time."

The shrinkage and growth of SQL Server 2005s feature list has also been of concern as the years have gone by. Shrinkage has included what enterprises consider important features, including clustering, hash partitioning and row-level security, in which access rights can be assigned by user or by application.

Rizzo defended the fluidity of the feature list by pointing to shifting focus on the part of enterprises being squeezed by, for example, compliance obligations. "When we first started on SQL Server 2005, we didnt have encryption on the feature list," he said. "We added it because of things like the California Privacy Act that says, Hey, customer, youre somewhat exempt if you encrypt your data. All our customers in California said, Hey, why dont you [make it possible for us to] encrypt data. If [a feature] tops the list of priorities for our top five customers, we say lets add it in."

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