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Security issues delay Yukon

Security concerns are among the most obvious reasons for the Yukon delay, but analysts say that a larger problem looms just beneath the surface.

Microsoft informed some of its customers yesterday that the newest version of SQL Server, code-named Yukon, had been delayed for security reasons -- and many analysts say the new release date is proof that the massive database project lacks focus.

The company announced Wednesday that the widely anticipated database would not ship until sometime during the first six months of 2005, after a third round of beta-testing ends. Microsoft products have been the subject of scrutiny in recent months, after several high-profile malicious-code attacks.

They sense that if their code is not immune from this kind of stuff, they're going to be out of business.
Frank Fox
SQL Server developer

"They sense that if their code is not immune from this kind of stuff, they're going to be out of business," said Frank Fox, a Hendersonville, Tenn.-based developer who builds SQL Server databases. "It's the pervasive nature of the malicious code on the Internet, and it's not just Microsoft who is affected. It's everybody."

At a seminar held for Microsoft partners in Nashville yesterday, Fox said, those in attendance were told that the delay in delivering Yukon can be attributed to security issues. Still, some analysts say the new release date reflects a larger problem.

Calling the delay a significant problem for Microsoft, Betsy Burton, a research director at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said the scope of the Yukon project scope has ranged from XML and .NET features to scalability and security controls.

"We believe that Yukon is being pulled in multiple directions within Microsoft," Burton said. "There is not a clear overriding vision for Yukon."

While the delay will not have an immediate impact on revenue for Microsoft, customers who purchased a three-year upgrade license for SQL Server in 2001 may have a reason to grumble. Those customers will receive nothing for their investment, Burton said.

In recent years, Microsoft has been encouraging customers to purchase an automatic upgrade license. Yukon, which was originally slated to ship in 2003, has now been delayed twice, making those licenses virtually useless, Burton said.

Noel Yuhanna, a senior industry analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, agreed that Yukon is being pulled in too many directions. Microsoft is trying to integrate too many products into Yukon, Yuhanna said.

"You can't fully integrate everything at once, because not all your customers need this much functionality," Yuhanna said.

Acknowledging that security was one of the "components" of the decision to delay Yukon, Tom Rizzo, Microsoft's director of product management for SQL Server, said that there were no specific areas of concern that caused the setback.

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Several dedicated Microsoft users said they will remain committed to Microsoft, no matter when Yukon arrives. SQL Server DBA Fei Young, treasurer of the Nashville SQL Server Users Group, said the delay would make the next version even more desirable.

"Microsoft has a history of announcing earlier but releasing later," she said. "This means little for SQL users, as SQL Server 2000 already delivers almost everything an enterprise can use."

Fox said he would rather Microsoft take precautions at the outset than try to remedy problems later.

"The scope of the redesign is a monstrous undertaking," Fox said "And I think they've got to do it right. They're not going to put out a product that immediately needs service packs, like they did in the past."

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