The Years Database Delights and Disasters

Here's to a year in which we were Slammered, bit with 64-bit fever, grilled on grid and treated to DBMS price wars.

What a year. Scarcely a day went by without fun and excitement in Database Land. If we werent racing to patch SQL Server systems (that should have already been patched, in a perfect universe) as fast as Slammer knocked them down, we were witnessing Oracle CEO Larry Ellisons persistent pawing at PeopleSoft.

Those two items grabbed their share of headlines over the past year, with just cause. But other big things happened with less ink being spilled on them. Heres my biased list of the years best and worst, including both the big headlines and the many news events that will have far-reaching impact on enterprises even if they didnt rate Page 1 coverage.

The Worst: Slammer. At the peak of its late January strike, Slammer (aka Sapphire) was sending nearly 8,000 packets per minute at almost 4,000 target IP addresses, according to The Sans Institute. As recently as the June TechEd conference, big-name customers such as Continental Airlines were demanding that Microsoft take responsibility for leaving ports open. With systems crashing across the world, repercussions included a South Korean civic group that sued Microsoft after many of the countrys ISPs were knocked offline for extended periods of time.

The Best: Slammer. Slammer was undeniably destructive, but its onslaught underscored the importance of installing patches in a timely manner. After all, Slammer exploited a known vulnerability for which Microsoft had long had a patch. Even though IT groups were, and are, overworked and understaffed, Slammer was a proof point that enterprises had to be more careful, particularly when guarding sensitive data.

Another positive that came out of Slammer was the fact that Microsoft is still working on securing Yukon, the code-name for the next version of SQL Server. Originally slated for release in the spring of 2004, Microsoft postponed the release after customers told the company that they wanted a "rock-solid" product, according to Stan Sorensen, Microsofts director of SQL Server product management.


The Best: Yukons Delay. Far from being annoyed at the delay, users were glad to hear theyd be getting a more secure product. "I am not entirely surprised at the Yukon delay, and I actually welcome it," said Daniel Mross, a database administrator at FreeMarkets Inc. "Remember Windows 95? NT 4.0? I would rather that the product undergoes extensive testing than to release it to market just because of a promised date."

Analysts agree that the Yukon delay is good news and points to delivery of a more secure product. "Obviously, theyre taking security very seriously and ensuring everything gets protected and safeguarded before they roll out Yukon," said Noel Yuhanna, an analyst for Giga Information Group. "Hopefully, it will be a more secure database than any other release."

Next page: A year full of promising product announcements.