What admins need to consider in advance of Yukon

DALLAS -- At the TechEd conference earlier this month, IT executives picked up a few details about Microsoft's database strategy. First, the company said it would add reporting services for SQL Server 2000; they will appear sometime later this year. And, second, officials said that Microsoft's next-generation database, code-named Yukon, will ship six months later than originally planned. It's now due out in late 2004, and it's probably going to be a few years beyond that before most IT shops consider installing the software. Nonetheless, Stan Sorenson, director of SQL Server product management, offered a few tips for customers interested in knowing how to prepare for Yukon.

What platform will customers need to run Yukon?
SQL Server Yukon will run on Windows Server 2000, as long as Windows 2000 has whatever the latest service pack is at that time. For someone with SQL 2000 running on a Windows 2000 [server], if they don't want to upgrade the OS, they will [be] able to do an upgrade replace. They won't get to use any of the SQL Server features that require Windows 2003 functionality, such as clusters, thread handling and some additional performance gain. But the server will run and the applications will run.

You will want to make sure you have the right hardware scoped out if there are investments you have to make. What will customers need to do to ease the next generation of SQL Server into their organizations?
The radical nature of change will depend on the environment. Our goal will be to make the upgrade process as painless as possible. When we went from SQL Server 6.5 to 7.0, it was not pain free. Going to SQL Server 2000 from SQL Server 7.0 was ever so slightly less pain free. Our goal will be to have an upgrade that doesn't require a huge amount of rewrite of store procedures. There may be a little rewrite, but the goal is to have it so well documented that the customer will know up front what they will need to do.

We will produce planning guides that will help people go through the process. It's early right now to have them, since we haven't gotten to beta 1 yet; [it's due out this summer]. How will Yukon impact the average enterprise?
Today, when there is an application running against a database, [occasionally] you won't have access to the database because of planned maintenance. With Yukon, we've eliminated the majority of reasons you would want to take a database offline, like reorganizing and rebuilding an index, or reorganizing and defragging a table.

We will continue to push forward on manageability, in areas such as self-optimization and self-tuning. We have far more management activities that can be scripted to allow for operational efficiencies. There is a rewritten console that lets you manage your relational databases, your analysis databases, all from within a single console. What's happening with the first beta?
Beta 1 ships later this month. We know it typically takes a year or so between the first beta and the full release of the product. We have a year to work with and see what we want from the second beta.

Our big advantage is that beta 1 will be feature complete. This lets us focus on bug fixes, performance and stress. Every time I've worked on a product, we've always had features sneak in between the betas. We are pretty confident that won't happen. What other Yukon features will benefit the IT professional?
The management and operational efficiencies are where the IT professional will benefit most from Yukon.

In data transformation service -- what we will do in terms of speeding up performance, the different types of transformation we will do and the wider variety of connectivity options. This will make it easier, because IT [administrators] won't have to figure out how to do this manually. You had already announced there would be reporting features in Yukon, and now you're bringing them to SQL Server 2000. How does the feature compare with what is already offered by Crystal Decisions?
The reporting feature was a set of bits for Yukon that was ready to be shown to customers. The customers wanted it [now], so we decided to ship it in SQL Server 2000. We are in beta 1 of that service and will release it at the end of the calendar year.

It compares favorably [to Crystal] for back-end services. Crystal has some end-user reporting features that are more sophisticated than what we are shipping.

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