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Microsoft Outlines (Vaguely) Its Database Road Ahead

Posted by iNext - 2006-04-10

Microsoft outlined in very broad strokes its long-term data storage vision on April 6 at a customer lunch in San Francisco.

Microsoft is rebranding its SQL Server Mobile Edition product as "SQL Server Everywhere," and is planning to release a first Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build of a new version of that product in the summer of 2006, with final availability slated in some time in the second half of 2006. The new SQL Server Everywhere release will run on Windows CE, as does the current product, but also on Win32 and Win64 platforms.

"SQL Server Everywhere is a very light-weight database. It's not a server. It's for online and offline use," said Paul Flessner, Senior Vice President of Microsoft's Data and Storage Division.

In offline mode, users might choose to run SQL Server Everywhere on their Windows systems, and then later sync it with a server-version of SQL Server, he added.

Microsoft also is on track to release a final version of its first service pack (SP) for SQL Server 2005 later in April, Flessner said. Microsoft made a CTP release of SP1 available last month. The biggest new feature delivered with that service pack will be the data-mirroring capability that Microsoft pulled from SQL Server 2005 in the final stages of testing.

Paul provided something "between a vision and a roadmap," he said, detailing the company's plans to meet users' changing data storage demands. Microsoft also provided a synopsis of Flessner's talk, in the form of an open letter to customers, on the company's Web site on Thursday.

"Ninety percent of data is currently stored in file systems, not databases," Flessner told Microsoft Watch. "And if databases are to continue to be relevant, they need to be able to store all of this data."

Microsoft is planning to offer users ways to store and retrieve both structured and unstructured data. But Flessner declined to provide any specifics.

He also said to expect Microsoft to address the area of how changing data-storage needs will impact the way applications are architected, going forward. Next-generation applications will take into account multiple data sources, service-oriented architectures and Web services.

When asked about Microsoft's plans to release a new storage product, code-named "BitVault," Flessner also clammed up. He did acknowledge that Microsoft is looking at how to support "content-addressable storage," and that it had a project named BitVault that falls into this category. But he declined to say more.

Flessner said to expect Microsoft to release a new version of its SQL Server product every two to three years, from here out. "Katmai" is the next version of SQL Server, expected by company watchers around 2007/2008.

Flessner declined to talk Katmai specifics. He promised it will include more continuous-availability and more self-tuning functionality. He also said to expect the product to include support for an "entity data bus," which will provide a higher-level definition of data via Microsoft's ADO interface. The "Orcas" version of Visual Studio, due out in 2007, is also slated to support this same entity data bus, he added.

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