Microsoft preps SQL Server for battle in two enterprise arenas

It's looking to bulk up the popular database

Routinely accused of bloating Windows and Office, Microsoft Corp. has acted more like a skinny teenage boy with enterprise apps like SQL Server: desperate to bulk up.

King of the middleweight databases, SQL Server has yet to be fully accepted by the big boys, admits Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server & Tools division. "Really large data warehouses and extremely large scale-up apps are the last high-end problems" remaining for SQL Server, Muglia said in a keynote at the Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS) users' conference in Seattle on Monday.

A year ago, Microsoft announced plans to add heft to SQL Server. On Monday, it added some detail when it announced two new versions for when SQL Server 2008 R2 ships by the middle of next year.

One is a Datacenter edition aimed at companies needing to scale-up their online transaction processing (OLTP). Used in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 R2, the Datacenter version can support up to 256 logical processors (physical CPUs multiplied by the number of threads they can support) and what Microsoft claims is "unlimited virtualization" . It also supports complex event processing (CEP).

The other is a new Parallel Data Warehouse version that can immediately support tens to hundreds of terabytes of data in clusters scaling out to about 24 nodes , according to senior vice-president, Ted Kummert.

That still pales compared to companies like Teradata Corp., which released a 50-petabyte data warehousing appliance last fall .

Today, Microsoft can only claim one SQL Server data warehouse in the petabyte range .

But, said Kummert, "Our intent is to build data warehouses of all sizes, including well over 100TB."

Future plans include enabling parallelized SQL Server data warehousing clusters of 100 nodes, according to Fausto Ibarra, director of product management, SQL Server, as well as working with partners to optimize SQL Server for servers using solid-state disks (SSDs) for storage.

Along with increased capabilities comes an increase in price for SQL Server, though only slightly and only for some customers.

The per-processor price for SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard edition will go to $7,500 from $6,000, while the enterprise price will increase to $28,800 from 25,000. Kummert pointed out that most customers buy SQL Server via server and client access licenses (CALs), which do not change.

With the two new versions, SQL Server, including the cloud-based SQL Azure version , now comes in 10 flavors . That's not quite as many as a certain ice cream store, but is still hard for many customers to keep track of.

SQL Azure remains on track to begin official service by year's end. Rather than cannibalizing SQL Server's business on the low-end, "I think of SQL Azure as giving customers flexibility and freedom of choice," Kummert said. He vowed to "move pretty aggressively" to add features and power to the hosted service.

Another threat to SQL Server on the low-end is the MySQL database owned by Oracle Corp. Some open-source figures suggest that Microsoft would benefit if the European Commission decides to block Oracle's merger with Sun Microsystems due to antitrust fears related to its ownership of MySQL. There's also been talk that Microsoft might be in the market to buy it if Oracle were forced to divest.

Kummert declined to comment on the possibility.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld (US)
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