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Microsoft Readies SQL Server 2008

SQL Server 2008 CTP5, due this month, expands the number of data types supported by SQL Server, including geospatial data, and includes new data warehouse features.

Microsoft's one step closer to what it calls the largest concurrent release of business software in its three decade history, a trio of launches of SQL Server, Visual Studio and Windows Server next year. On Monday, the company announced the latest test version of SQL Server 2008 would be available this month.

The new test release, Community Technology Preview (or CTP) 5, is a significant milestone in that it will come with a Go Live license for the product. That indicates the latest SQL release is nearly finished and ready for Microsoft support.

SQL Server 2008 CTP5 expands the number of data types supported by SQL Server, including geospatial data, and includes new data warehouse features. Microsoft says there have already been 20,000 downloads of SQL Server 2008 test versions. The final release is due out sometime in the second quarter of next year. SQL Server 2008 aims to build mostly on the success of its predecessor. According to Gartner, Microsoft is both the fastest growing database vendor and the fastest growing business intelligence vendor in the market.

Though it was once pegged as a technology that could only handle smaller databases, SQL Server is now running data warehouses larger than 20 Tbytes in size, according to Microsoft, and is now a leader in Gartner's magic quadrant for data warehousing. SQL Server 2008 will add even better compression technology, which Peter Hammond, president of Microsoft partner and business intelligence vendor CyberSavvy, in an interview, called "huge." Hammond said SQL Server 2008's back-up compression ratios are between 60% and 80%.

SQL Server 2008 will focus on a few areas of improvement beyond what's in the popular SQL Server 2005, including even better scalability, improved business intelligence features and creating an easier way to develop against SQL Server via technologies like LINQ, a new database querying syntax. There will be new support for spatial -- think geo-location -- data, better date and time support, and support for unstructured data that will percolate attributes of documents and files into the data.

Encryption is another big improvement. Transparent encryption means the application that coordinates data in the database won't require that the user specifically request to decrypt information. With transparent encryption, the database does all the translation without user input.

"With 2008, we're making 2005 better," Microsoft director of product management Francois Ajenstat said in an interview. "We're really targeting that high-end scenario. With 2008, we are at par with Oracle and IBM." Bold claims, but SQL seems to be on a roll.

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