Improved functionality and database administration tools in Microsoft's newest database release, code-named Yukon, mean that it's keeping pace with Oracle's 10g database technology and IBM's DB2 offering, according to analysts.
"A lot is being made of the manageability of Yukon, and that's important," said Stephen O'Grady, senior analyst with Bath, Maine-based research firm RedMonk.
"SQL Server, generally speaking, has been a fairly manageable product, and the new manageability tools being announced in Yukon make it stand out even more," he said.
New details about Yukon, announced last week at the annual 2003 Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Community Summit in Seattle, included a redesign of the original data transfer and storage (DTS) architecture to improve the product's extract, transform and load (ETL) tools.
Microsoft has built reporting tools into the new database, said Microsoft's Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server.
"We said, 'It's time to rewrite the code base to get better reliability and tight integration,'" Rizzo said. "The thing we've done is make it easier to connect to wherever your data is."
O'Grady said the ETL tools will improve SQL Server's graphical environment and should help DBAs to pick up on bugs and fix them as they happen. The new environment will be code-free, with features such as drag-and-drop split transformations, built-in joins, and built-in Web service transformations,
Chris Alliegro, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based research firm, said he was impressed with the amount of information being released about Yukon.
"It's a very powerful environment, with great tools, code completion and great features. It should compete well with Oracle and DB2," Alliegro said.
Alliegro, who attended last week's PASS conference, said that a number of developers at first feared that Microsoft would be phasing out the Transact SQL (T-SQL) language in favor of program database functions.
But Alliegro said that, thus far, those fears seem unfounded.
"I think the indications are that Microsoft is still committed to T-SQL, because they see the value in the language," Alliegro said. "They took great pains to impress upon people that they still think T-SQL is a good language and they're still moving it forward with Yukon."
One of the most impressive improvements with Yukon, Alliegro said, is the embedding of the .NET common language runtime in the database, so users now can program the database using stored procedures.
"It's a powerful application and library-development feature," he said. "I think people are intrigued with the developer capabilities."
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