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A decade of data -- Seattle summit to celebrate SQL Server, preview Yukon

Margie Semilof

It may be the 10th anniversary of Microsoft's SQL Server, but database administrators at the annual SQL Server user group meeting next week in Seattle are more likely to be buzzing about the first Yukon beta scheduled for early in the new year.

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    At the Professional SQL Server (PASS) Community Summit next week in Seattle, Gordon Mangione, Microsoft's vice president of SQL Server; Bill Baker, general manager of the data warehousing group; and Peter Spiro, a Microsoft distinguished engineer are expected to give customers a first look at some new details about Yukon, Microsoft's next-generation database technology.

    Some customers are anxious to learn more about Yukon in terms of how it will change the role of the database in relation to other technologies. Trey Johnson, a principal architect of business intelligence at Encore Development, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based consulting firm, said that he is looking forward to improvements in the analysis and data transformation services within Yukon.

    Microsoft's SQL Server database business has done a good job carving a niche in "affordable scalability," Johnson said.

    Microsoft casts its database as less expensive than -- but just as scalable as -- that of its primary competitor, Oracle Corp. In some cases, Microsoft's message has reached the ears of users who have, in turn, installed SQL Server in data warehousing applications. "The best thing Microsoft has done is [that] it's created multiple instances in a single server," said Mark Richards, a principal consultant at La-Z-Boy Inc., the furniture company that sits in Monroe, Mich.

    La-Z-Boy has many of its major application services on Microsoft's Data Center software riding a Unisys ES7000 server. The server has 12 processors that are split into three partitions, with a dozen gigabytes of memory split between them. The company's workhorse database application is housed in the first partition, which contains seven copies of SQL Server.

    But not all customers agree that SQL Server is right for every application. IdaCorp Energy tried using it in an energy-trading application, but the database proved to be too unstable and the company switched the application to Oracle and Unix.

    "We use SQL Server for a lot of services, but it's not for the most intensive part of our business," said Jim Acevedo, manager of network infrastructure at the Boise, Idaho-based company. "We just can't have the downtime."

    In terms of revenue, SQL Server made more money in 2001 than Oracle, and because SQL Server costs much less, it stands to reason that Microsoft is shipping more databases than Oracle, said Kevin Strange, vice president and research director at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

    Strange also estimates that the average SQL Server database uses 20% to 30% fewer resources than a typical Oracle database installation.

    Strange said that he was one of SQL Server's biggest critics until SQL Server 2000, which made great strides forward. "I'm not saying there aren't issues, but it's a product that is enterprise-worthy," he said. "Every enterprise has to ask, 'what are my requirements? And is it good enough for that situation?'"

    "It may not be ready for Citibank's most complex [online transaction processing] applications, but not everyone is Citibank," Strange said.

    At this point, everyone is waiting to see what will come out with Yukon. So anyone who writes applications for Windows and anyone who ports a database must treat Microsoft as a database force to be reckoned with, said Mike Schiff, an analyst at Current Analysis in Sterling, Va.

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