SQL Server upgrade retains its appeal to testers

Microsoft Corp. is finally set to launch its SQL Server 2005 database on Monday. And despite a two-year delay, several users who have tested the software cited the improved performance and new functionality it brings as positive developments that likely will convince them to upgrade soon.

For example, beta-tester Mayur Raichura, managing director of information services at The Long & Foster Cos. in Fairfax, Va., said he is "hoping that with the five years they have spent developing and tightening this product, this is truly not a 1.0 version." Raichura said he wants to avoid the need for "some serious patch management" or deployment of service packs.

But based on the features he has tested so far in the beta version, Raichura said SQL Server 2005 could rival the databases of market leaders Oracle Corp. and IBM within a year. Long & Foster plans to begin using a production version of the database in the spring, when the real estate company is due to launch a new version of its corporate Web site.

SQL Server 2005 supports database encryption and other new security features, as well as full-text search, native storage and querying of XML documents, and added business intelligence functionality. The database is also integrated with Visual Studio 2005, which lets developers write applications in C# or Visual Basic instead of doing SQL programming.

Mediterranean Shipping Co., a Geneva-based company that operates container ships, is already running the new database on production systems. As part of Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program (see "Earliest adopters get put to the test"), Mediterranean Shipping beta-tested SQL Server 2005 for nearly a year before going live with the Enterprise edition several months ago.

Fabio Catassi, the shipping company's chief technical officer, said end users experienced a "dramatic reduction" in the time needed to run queries after Mediterranean Shipping upgraded to a 64-bit version of SQL Server 2005 running on a Unisys ES7000 server. The performance gains were also due to high-availability features such as the database's online index-rebuilding capability, he said.