Microsoft Tunes Windows

Microsoft eyes SQL-based engine for next version of Windows, code-named 'Longhorn.'

Microsoft Corp. is considering bundling in the next version of Windows a pared-down version of its next-generation SQL Server database and the relational file system that goes with it.

Microsoft executives have been briefing the companys largest corporate clients and partners about their plans for the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, and have included mention of a new SQL-based file system, sources said. That would require a SQL engine.

As such, its likely that an updated version of MSDE (Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine) will be included in Longhorn, they said.

Barry Paxman, IT manager for Cascade Designs Inc., a camping equipment maker in Seattle, welcomed the move. "SQL Server is getting close and getting better, and its a heck of a lot cheaper, and its easier to manage," Paxman said.

MSDE is a stripped-down edition of the engine used in SQL Server 2000 and uses only a few megabytes of memory. It runs on Windows 98 or later and is included in Office 2000 Pro and Office XP Pro.

This is a change from Microsofts earlier plan to include a SQL-based file system and engine in the version of Windows that followed Longhorn, code-named Blackcomb, sources said.

A Microsoft partner who has been briefed and spoke on condition of anonymity said the inclusion of the SQL file system and engine in Windows means that users will no longer have to deal with physical file locations.

"Under this file system, physical location on the hard disk is no longer important," the partner said. "Users will be able to start dealing with data as they would with any type of SQL query, so it will no longer matter where the files are located. Organizing data becomes far simpler." But the partner noted the final feature set for Longhorn has not been decided.

Jeff Ressler, lead product manager for SQL Server at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., said last week that a new storage technology is on the way. But the issue of bundling the companys upcoming SQL Server database, code-named Yukon, or its core relational file system into Longhorn, Ressler said, is being misunderstood.

"There is an effort ... to include storage technology that will allow for some manipulation and querying for structured and unstructured data across our products," Ressler said. "Were certainly not putting SQL Server into the operating system. Yukon is not going into Windows or any other product in that sense."

But the storage technology in question allows "queries both with relational syntax and through XML-type syntax," Ressler said. "Theres source technology under development by teams across the company."

Microsoft has told customers and partners that the inclusion of the SQL file system could push out the release cycle for the next two versions of Windows by a year or so, with Longhorn now likely to debut in 2004 and Blackcomb in late 2005 or early 2006.

"The inclusion of a version of an SQL-based file system and engine will be one of the most killer features Microsoft has ever introduced to the PC operating system," the Microsoft partner said. "Our company will probably now start changing, over the next few years, to base itself around the new file system as this opens up a lot of opportunities for third parties."

A developer in the Midwest who also requested anonymity said there is no reason for a stand-alone PC to have such a sophisticated file system unless it was necessary to support .Net transactions and other devices such as a home network server.

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