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Microsoft gives big splash for behind the scene applications

Posted by iTech - 2005-11-23

New versions of SQL Server, Visual Basic launched this month, but without some of the promised features of the applications

Leveraging a 10-city Canadian marketing tour, Microsoft is hoping businesses and ISVs will be attracted to new versions of its relational database and its development system.
“We think from a development and software application perspective this kicks off a new wave of applications that can be built,” said Microsoft Canada president David Hemler.

SQL Server 2005, a back-end database, and Visual Studio 2005, a suite of development tools, are going to get the kind of treatment usually reserved for desktop applications.

Microsoft is also using the tour to boost BizTalk Server 2006, although it’s only available now in beta.

Hemler estimated 14,000 standard editions of the software will be given away to registered attendees at sessions in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and Winnipeg.

Twenty-six partners developing applications on new versions of the software will participate, including Squirrel Systems of Burnaby, B.C., which makes SQL Server-based point-of-sales software for the food services industry.

David Atkinson, the company’s vice-president of marketing, said the database’s improved business intelligence and reporting features will be a boon to the newest version of Squirrel One when it is released early next year.

“It’s going to provide a real reason for chain stores to invest in technology,” he said.

Features delayed

However, some of the announced features of the new products aren’t shipping immediately.

For example, the database mirroring management tools in the enterprise edition of SQL Server 2005 won’t be released for several months, while the server version of Visual Studio’s Team System also won’t be available until next year.

However, Hemler said that’s proof Microsoft is serious about not shipping software until it’s ready.

Part of the reason the company is making a marketing fuss is that it’s been five years since SQL 2000 came out and the company wants to tout its features.

These include improved scalability and embedded reporting and data analysis tools as Microsoft continues to push SQL Server higher among enterprise-sized companies, where Oracle Database and IBM’s DB2 are strong.

Chris Alliegro of Directions on Microsoft, a Redmond, Wash., research company, called SQL Server 2005 “an enormous release.”

It now integrates the .Net framework common language runtime, which will let developers the ability to write stored procedures in C# and VB.Net. These are simpler than the T-SQL language they’ve had to use so far.

Among the analysis tools, SQL Server’s reporting services has been made more scalable and robust. Using Report Builder, end users will be able to more easily decide what data will go into a report and how it is formatted.

Table portioning, database mirroring (when it comes out), the ability to do online restores and index operation are all new features that will appeal to enterprise users.

But “the challenge for Microsoft is that many of these new features are not new to its competitors,” said Alliegro.

Big improvements

Visual Studio 2005 offers a number of tools Visual Basic 6.0 users have been waiting for, according to Greg DeMichillie, another analyst with Directions on Microsoft. More importantly, he said, Microsoft has made big improvements in the ASP.Net Web development platform in Visual Studio, making it easier for Web developers.

The Team System is for groups who work in Visual Studio and need version control and other special features.

Three client modules are ready now — architect, software developer and tester. However, DeMichillie said without the server “for all intents and purposes Team System doesn’t ship until next year.”

There may also be some grumbling about the pricing of the team editions, which each cost $7,700, plus the several thousand dollars for the server.
Although much less expensive compared to IBM Rational, a similar development application, DeMichillie said Microsoft initially didn’t prepare customers for that price.

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