For veteran database watchers, it may feel oddly early to hear talk of the next version of Microsoft's SQL Server database.
It seems like it was just yesterday that Microsoft was issuing one of the many mea culpas that marked the development of SQL Server 2005, as delays -- primarily to fix security issues -- caused the gestation period for that release to drag out for five long years.
But fast-forward two years from the belated shipment of SQL Server 2005, and it appears to be both a technical and financial success. And promises made by Microsoft executives that the company would get back onto a two-to-three-year release cycle for SQL Server look like they will be kept.
In an interview last week, Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of Microsoft's data and storage platform division, said that SQL Server 2008 will be released to manufacturing in next year's second quarter. That would be a little more than two and a half years after its predecessor was released.
"We understand that five years between major releases is too long," said Kummert, an 18-year Microsoft veteran who oversaw terminal services and server-level security software before taking on his current job in January. "We are very committed to delivering SQL Server releases in 24 to 36 months."
Not that Kummert has much choice with SQL Server 2008: Microsoft has already made plans to hold a marketing blowout on Feb. 27, 2008, in Los Angeles and other locations for the new database release as well as for Windows Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008.
But Kummert claims that instead of simply scaling back its ambitions, Microsoft is using a revamped development process to inject a significant number of new features into SQL Server 2008 -- enough to make the new version a worthy upgrade, even for users that only recently completed their migrations to SQL Server 2005.
Many of the added features will be demonstrated for the first time this week at the Professional Association for SQL Server user group's 2007 PASS Community Summit in Denver. "We'll let the code speak for itself," said Kummert, who will kick off the conference with a keynote speech on Wednesday.
Donald Feinberg, a database analyst at Gartner, agrees that Microsoft has made its development process for SQL Server more agile. "The bottom line is that they learned a lot from the 2005 release and how long it took to get it out," Feinberg said. "Now they're working on lots of new stuff for future releases, and picking them out and freezing development on them as they become ready."
"I've only seen one feature slide. Otherwise, they've met their timeline," said David Smith, CIO at ServiceU, a provider of event and box-office management services that is already running prerelease versions of SQL Server 2008 in production applications.
Microsoft has issued four Community Technical Preview (CTP) releases of SQL Server 2008, including one late last month that can be run in virtualized environments along with the company's Virtual Server 2005 software.