Monday, November 21, 2005

SQL Server 2005 Product Launch

SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 launched on November 8 here in Toronto. A lot of people showed up for the event – I’m guessing about 3,000. The day long session was comprised of a SQL Server track and a Visual Studio track but began with a lackluster opening keynote by the president of Microsoft Canada, David Hemler and Craig Symonds, VP of the Developer Tools Division at Microsoft, Redmond.

The keynote was not what I would call inspiring. I guess I’ve been to so many of these that perhaps I’ve become immune to the usual message that this release of (insert product name here) is the greatest ever. Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, allows you to turn back time, cholesterol free and calorie reduced. I’m not sure why they even talked about BizTalk 2006 since this product is not even shipping and won’t be until 2006.

Ok, I’m getting a bit sarcastic since I really like both SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005, particularly since we use them to build and support our services. They provide us with a rich, deep toolset that allows us to tailor cost effective business intelligence services for our clients. That said, the demos that were presented at the keynote were mundane at best and did not showcase the products at all. The keynote is meant to be a short overview and the details should be presented in break outs but I wanted at least some wow factor. It should be easy because the new releases offer so much for the developer.

I had some involvement with the SQL Server 2005 sessions. I was part of a small group of individuals asked to contribute feedback and suggest content for the sessions. We talked about presentation, content of course, and what was important to show given the limited time available. In fact that was a big part of our discussions – what to exclude. There is so much material to talk about that when we received the early drafts of the sessions we thought each topic consisted of several days of presentation! Bias alert on! I think Barnaby and Damir did a great job of presenting so much material in just three short sessions. Bias alert off!

I was also in the Ask the Experts Cabana, answering questions on SQL Server 2005. I got some standard questions like how much faster is the new release. This is a “it depends” type of answer as to what the database operations are. You have to make sure that we are comparing apples to apples. For example, some operations in SSIS (the ETL tool that ships with SQL Server 2005) are extremely fast. That said, it would be difficult to compare to the SQL 2000 version directly since many operations can be combined into a SQL 2005 package that simply were not possible in the prior release. In a SQL database you are rarely performing just one operation so comparisons without detailed specifics are not simple. Overall the new release is a lot faster but a factor of x times faster simply can’t be supplied.

I have to address one semi sarcastic comment I made earlier about SQL Server 2005 turning back time. This was not all that facetious. The MDX query language for Analysis Services allows us to go into the database history to retrieve anything we want for a given time. This means that numbers can be compared over time, related to events that may have affected the outcome those numbers. This also means that forecast models can be created based on history and tested and then used moving forward. Data mining algorithms can also be used to help users with future events. I’ll talk about forecasting another day.

I was also asked about technology investing and whether Cognos is a good stock to buy. Some folks in the equities world see this release of SQL Server 2005 as digging into Cognos’ share of the business intelligence market. You could ask the same about database vendor Oracle. Both companies got to be where they are in the market place because they make good products. New product releases do not instantly change the face of the market.

I think businesses don’t necessarily want more software. They want more answers. They want something that will make them money, be more competitive or create market share. When innovative companies take these new software tools and provide a cost effective service, then yes, I think competitors share prices will be affected. But it won't happen overnight. Of course, if I could foresee the future with 100% accuracy then I’m not sure I would be telling you or anyone else what I would be investing in.

Back to the product launch! So while I thought the keynote lacked pizzazz, it was still a great event and a lot of people went home with an introduction to some really great new tools.


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