Microsoft gives SQL Server more XML fluency

At its professional Developers Conference (PDC) this week, Microsoft Corp. quietly revealed an updated version of its SQLXML Web release add-on for the SQL Server 2000 database.

All of the major database players, in fact, have been adding XML to their software over the last several months.

Microsoft's SQLXML 2.0 contains support for XSD (XML Schema Definition), a specification from the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standards body, in Cambridge, Mass., that eases data integration and interoperability.

SQLXML 2.0 enables developers to program XML features in SQL Server 2000 with Visual Studio.NET, thereby bringing the database up to speed for developers building Web services, said Jeff Ressler, a SQL Server product manager at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft. Previously, developers used Visual Studio 6.0 with SQL Server, and now they have the option of using either version of the toolbox.

Another important benefit is that SQLXML can be used to enable XML processing at the middle tier. For instance, a typical scenario may include one database and a dozen application and Web servers. When one of the application servers calls the database, that application server can process the XML, instead of the database having to process every XML-related query and then sending it back to the application server.

"It offloads work from the database server, which means the database server has more CPU cycles to do more important things," Ressler said.

Microsoft has been using the Web release method to keep SQL Server up to date with W3C standards, Ressler added. When it shipped, SQL Server 2000 supported XML, Xpath (XML Path Language), and XSLT (eXtensible Style Sheet Language Transformations) out of the box. The first Web release of SQLXML contributed support for XML bulk loading to the database.

Xpath is a language for addressing parts of an XML document, designed to be used by XSLT, which is a language for transforming XML documents. XML bulk loading provides a means to get XML data into databases.

Both IBM Corp., in Armonk, N.Y., and Oracle Corp., in Redwood Shores, Calif., support XML and some of the associated standards in their databases as well.

"XML is becoming more common, so databases need to be able to handle XML and related data along with the rest of companies' data," said Peter Urban, an analyst at Boston-based consulting house AMR Research Inc.

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