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SQL Server 2005 reaches RTM

Microsoft's SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 were released to manufacturing today. The new database server is poised to make real inroads in the large enterprise market.

Microsoft released final versions of the long-awaited SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 on Thursday, a little more than a week in advance of the official Nov. 7 launch. The software has been released to manufacturing -- a step known in the industry as RTM -- and is available for download to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers.

The last release of SQL Server was five years ago, and the product launch has been pushed back several times. Microsoft has positioned the lengthy development time as part of its effort to encourage confidence in SQL Server 2005 from day one – even pulling a feature, database mirroring, that wasn't ready for prime time. Early signs are that the effort may pay off.

Donald Feinberg, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn., said reports from beta testers have been overwhelmingly positive. "I've talked to probably a dozen clients who've been in the early production program for it," he said, "and they think it's solid.

"They've moved into production early because it was so solid and they needed the new features," Feinberg said. "Anybody who will move beta software into production has to really trust it."

Microsoft designed SQL Server 2005 to go after larger-scale users who have traditionally been Oracle Corp.'s and IBM's territory, with features including data management and business intelligence tools that were absent from the 2000 version.

Microsoft also introduced special pricing for customers migrating from Oracle and DB2 platforms, as well as from Sybase ASE, Hitachi HiRDB, and Fujitsu Symfoware. They receive discounts of 25% off the standard edition license and 50% off both the enterprise edition and Client Access Licenses, if purchased with Software Assurance licensing at the regular price.

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Even without the discounts, pricing is one of the advantages SQL Server 2005 has in going after Oracle customers. "If the list price of Oracle is $40,000 per CPU, and the list price of SQL Server is $25,000, that's a big difference," said Feinberg. "Plus, Oracle has a lot of add-on packages that cost more. Microsoft has none. It's $25,000 for everything."

Feinberg said the SQL Server 2005 early adopters he has worked with range from relatively small databases of 10 GB to 20 GB to databases as large as 2 TB. Good results with those larger users may bode well for Microsoft's strategy.

"They have many large clients today – not a lot, but many – and they're doing it with SQL Server 2000," Feinberg said. "With the greater performance of the new version and, more important, the ability to manage large databases, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 will be a serious contender against both Oracle and IBM for large applications."

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