Ahead of the Curve: The database beyond SQL

You needn't be a DBA to understand that all knowledge in a company or organization lives in, or at least passes through, a database manager. The DBMS sees all, knows all, and at any point in time, is the most authoritative source not only for data, but also for the right-now state of flying transactions and distributed processes. Considering the DBMS is so well-placed to participate in the real-time enterprise, shouldn't we ask it to do more than sit behind some opaque middleware and suck in and spit out SQL data?

Through integration with .Net, SQL Server 2005 takes its rightful place as an active peer, not a detached agent, in large-scale distributed applications. Tight and transparent DBMS integration was a key contributor to Java's overwhelming success, and as is the case with Java, .Net fits hand in glove with a DBMS. Both Java and .Net can expose database content and stored procedures as language-native objects. Both app platforms link databases' stored procedures to the classes and executable methods of external objects as well.

SQL Server 2005's .Net integration creates a dream scenario in which SQL developers can incorporate the advanced functionality of .Net in their stored procedures, while C#, Visual Basic, and even JavaScript developers can work with databases as though they were language extensions.

SQL Server 2005's .Net integration also extends well beyond mere convenience. A well-architected dynamic solution can automate deployment and management to an extent previously impractical under Windows. Developers can pull together all of the code, communication, and data resources into one readily accessible assembly that, when delivered, unpacks itself, transfers and translates data from existing sources, and supplies applications and administrators with comfortable front-end facilities for management and monitoring.

Integration with .Net turns the versioning and bridging of changes to database structure and code into an automated exercise, too. This ability alone -- to alter the database's structure, from a tweak to a complete reworking, without freaking out every app that connects to it -- justifies Microsoft's effort at .Net/SQL Server 2005 integration and should drive enterprises to unlock the real power of Microsoft's most powerful workhorse.

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Tom Yager

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