Whats Next for SQL Server?

What will .Net integration and upcoming features such as native XML and Web Services support mean for the enterprise? Find out in eWEEK's interview with Microsoft Group Product Manager Tom Rizzo.

Users demanded SQL Server bond tighter with Visual Studio .Net, and Microsoft Corp. has since heeded the call, putting into beta testers hands a version that opens the database up to .Net-compliant languages.

The next version of SQL Server, code-named "Yukon," was originally slated for a spring 2004 release. That deadline was pushed out to the second half of next year after customers said they expected Yukon to fit hand-in-glove with the next version of .Net, code-named Whidbey. The Yukon beta was released in July to some 2,000 customers and partners.

eWEEK recently talked with Microsoft Group Product Manager Tom Rizzo to find out how the .Net integration that customers demanded, along with upcoming features such as native XML and Web Services support, will benefit enterprises.

eWEEK: Were hearing that customers are asking for greater interoperability, greater flexibility and greater choice in programming models. What kind of interoperability are they seeking?

Rizzo: Theres a couple different levels in interoperability. One is interoperability between the data of data-base vendors. They want data to go from Oracle [Corp. databases] into SQL Server or from Sybase [Inc. databases] into SQL Server. Then theres interoperability between the database vendor and the data stored in the database vendors products.

The next level of interoperability is more around interoperability in their application development platform and application server environment. Thats things like, Make sure it works in .Net as well as J2EE so I can access the data in my database. So a customer can say, Im a Java shop, Im a .Net shop, Im both, and I can still build applications that work in SQL Server.

Were hearing more and more not just about those two things, but business interoperability, which is, I have partners outside my firewall. I need to interoperate with them with my data. Make sure I can expose my data in an Internet-friendly way. And thats XML and Web Services.

eWEEK: SQL Server 2000 already has XML support. How are you deepening that in Yukon?

Rizzo: From the data level, we have things like native XML support. You take data from SQL Server, put it into XML format and ship it to anything that understands XML, such as Oracle has some XML support, and [IBMs DB2 database].

XML is ultimate interoperability—its an industry-standard format, and its self-describing. You know both the schema of the data as well as the data itself. You dont lose the context when you pass your data around.

We upped the level of XML support in Yukon through a number of things. In 2000 we had XML support but … it was shredding. [Shredding is the parsing of XML tag components into corresponding relational table columns.]

In Yukon the key thing is we have an XML type. Like you have STRING and NUMBERS and all that inside the database, now you can declare [with the native data type] XML. Although we had XML support in 2000, and many leveraged it and were happy with it, now we have native support.

eWEEK: Why is a native data type for XML so important?

Rizzo: One reason we did it is to support XQuery. Also to support XQuery we had to build code so as to combine XML with relational query language. You can take the relational sorts of queries youre used to in the database world, where people select things from tables with filters on that data. You can combine XQuery statements [with such relational queries].

Imagine, you have a database table of information, maybe sales information. It has customer information, but thats stored as XML type within the table. Maybe it comes from another application as XML. Maybe you want to store it as XML so you can give it to another application, say a CRM application. Maybe you have a million rows in the database: not only customer information in XML but maybe what they bought and when they bought it.

[In SQL Server 2000] we allow you to query the data with existing relational queries, so you can say, Show me all orders over $1 million. That datas stored as relational. But now [with Yukon] you can say, Show me all orders over $1 million in Pennsylvania. Since the customer information is in XML, you can do a standard relational query and query into the XML document.

We call this cross-domain queries. You have a relational domain and the XML domain. We allow you, in a seamless way, to do things across the two domains that are much, much easier.

eWEEK: Whats up with Web Services in Yukon?