Tool Kit Makes E-Mail Scalable

Free Microsoft SQL server add-on enables large-scale personalized e-mailing but needs programming.

Organizations using Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server will be able to download an add-on for the database starting this week that will provide large-scale personalized e-mailing.

The add-on, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Notification Services, is included in a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 license, so anyone using SQL Server can install Notification Services on the same machine at no extra charge—a bargain.

It requires SQL Server, of course, and, because its in large measure a programming tool kit, it also requires developer expertise in a .Net language. We tested Beta 2 code of the software.

While only an option for Microsoft-centric shops, Notification Services provides a large set of message trigger, content formatting, personalization and delivery services for sending automatic messages to subscribers—which makes it preferable to writing this code from scratch.

Notification Services is the first server created by Microsoft that uses .Net Framework itself—its written in C#. We think writing server code in a managed execution environment is a great idea for security and hope to see more of the same in other Microsoft server products.

Notification Services comes in two versions: Standard Edition is licensed with SQL Server Standard Edition and must be run on the same machine as the database. This version is limited to three concurrent threads sending out alerts. Enterprise Edition is licensed with SQL Server Enterprise Edition and allows multimachine clustering and an unlimited number of alert distribution threads.

In a clustered environment, all machines that have Notification Services components must be licensed for the matching version of SQL Server.

Notification Services combines a Windows service that sends e-mail or other kinds of alerts and a .Net assembly that provides a programming interface for the product.

There arent any management tools per se; Notification Services uses Windows Event Log to report messages, and performance is monitored through the Windows System Monitor tool. A unified console would be a good addition.