Behind Visual Studio and SQL Server

Microsoft executives share their plans for upcoming releases of Visual Studio 2005 tool set and SQL Server 2005.

S. "Soma" Somasegar, Microsoft Corp.s corporate vice president of the developer division, and Paul Flessner, the companys senior vice president of server applications, are responsible for the Visual Studio 2005 tool set and SQL Server 2005 database platform, respectively.

As Microsoft moves toward a Nov. 7 launch of both products, along with BizTalk Server 2006, the two leaders sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft to discuss the origins of the products, as well as the deep integration between them, including placing the Microsoft CLR (Common Language Runtime) at the core of both.

Code-named Whidbey and Yukon, respectively, Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 are key deliverables for Microsoft as it prepares developers for building and deploying applications that will run in what the Redmond, Wash., company has called the "Longhorn wave."

Longhorn was the code name for Microsofts upcoming version of Windows, which is now known as Windows Vista. Both Whidbey and Yukon fell victim to delays along the development cycle. The two executives address this, along with other issues.

Can you explain how you came up with the notion of integrating the Whidbey tool set with the Yukon database?

Somasegar: The thing that is interesting to me is [that] we sort of kept data and applications as two different entities or islands, like some people here like to call it. If you look at the developer, look at an application, the application is only as useful as the data that it can access. Likewise, the data is only as useful as an application that can manipulate the data.

So we felt at the beginning of this journey that [we should] try to bring the two worlds together. SQL Server is a ... phenomenal product. Customers love that product, and the product is that much more valuable when you have an application that you write on top of SQL that leverages the data in the database.

Being able to take the CLR and wire it into SQL Server right away gives the benefits of the modern programming world to the database developers. Theyre no longer constrained by just one language, be it T-SQL [Transact-SQL] or whatever.

You literally can have developers program to the data—the data tier, I should say—based on the language that they are most familiar with as opposed to some other language that they have to go learn. Then, because its .Net, they get all the benefits of the code safety—the strong type system and the like—so that the code that you write is as safe as realistically possible. If you really want direct access to the data, you can always get that as well.

So the flexibility, the productivity, the reliability, the security—all that you typically hear from developers about moving to .Net—you get that lock, stock and barrel for the database developers for the first time in the SQL world. Thats the reason we are superexcited about this.

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Have you considered shipping SQL Server Express with the framework or with Windows so that its available on every desktop?

Flessner: Express will be available pretty freely. We havent really thought about integrating it into the OS or the framework directly. Its something we could look at again going forward, but its not something weve taken on right now. Its going to be freely downloadable and available to anybody who wants it.

What do you think the next cycle of SQL Server will be like? Will it be a quick cycle?

Flessner: I dont know yet. We really are focused on getting it out.

OK. Do you think it will be a 1.0 release, or do you expect many users will hold off and wait for a follow-on or a 1.1 release?

Flessner: Again, I dont know. Weve worked hard on backward compatibility and upgrade, and weve done a lot of work in that space, so were hoping [for] an easy upgrade for customers. And there is an installed base that we believe is anxious to upgrade. So we hope the adoption rate will be pretty quick.

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