Microsoft Talks Up SQL Server ‘Katmai’
Published: May 17, 2007
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft started beating the drum for the version of SQL Server, codenamed “Katmai,” last week at its business intelligence conference. In addition to new business intelligence capabilities, Katmai, which is scheduled to ship in 2008, will feature better security, more extensibility, new high availability features, a rule-based management framework, and an array of new tricks for .NET developers.
The new rule-based management framework Microsoft is developing for Katmai is expected to reduce the dependency on scripts for daily maintenance activities, such as query optimizations, naming conventions, backup and restore operations, and index management. By automatically monitoring and enforcing policies in Katmai, Microsoft says users will be able to push policies out to thousands of servers, providing a more heterogeneous SQL Server environment.
Better security will be a focal point for Katmai. With this release, Microsoft intends to make it easier for users to encrypt entire databases, or just specific data or log files, without making changes to the underlying applications. Better auditing will also allow administrators to more easily enforce compliance.
Microsoft is also talking about a feature called “database mirroring” in Katmai. With database mirroring, users will be given another option, on top of application server clustering, for boosting the availability of their critical business applications. Microsoft says it is also improving the recoverability of applications from storage failures by making it easy to move processor and memory resources without affecting applications.
It will also be easier to tune SQL Server for the best performance as a result of new performance data collection features in Katmai, Microsoft says. This will be made possible through a new centralized repository for performance data where administrators can view performance figures and compare them to past reports.
Similarly, Katmai will also sport a “resource governor” that, according to Microsoft, will help administrators provide a “consistent and predictable response” to users. The resource governor will achieve this by defining resource limits and priorities for different workloads.
Katmai will also feature new tricks for developers, including the new Entity Data Model, which is part of the ADO.NET framework, and support for the previously announced Language Integrated Query (LINQ) technology.
With the new Entity Data Model, developers will be able to access data by defining business entities like customers, orders, and products, as opposed to using the table and column format that is standard with relational databases. Developers can then query and retrieve these entities natively within any .NET language using LINQ, which is a set of language extensions that Microsoft announced in September 2005 as a way to simplify the development process and prevent programmers from having to know and use SQL and XQuery by allowing them to query data in C# and Visual Basic. Meanwhile, as developers work with a logical view of objects in the database, administrators will still be able to manage the database using the physical table and column view.
Microsoft also plans to improve support for non relational data–such as XML, a hierarchical format that Microsoft first supported in its database with SQL Server 2005. With Katmai, Microsoft intends to enable SQL Server to store and consume any type of unstructured content, which would suggest support for XML documents, PDF files, or JPG images, as well as new “spatial” data-types for building geographic and “location aware” systems.
This widening of file-type support sounds a lot like the type of capability that Microsoft was touting with Windows File System (WinFS), the revolutionary file system that was to debut with Windows “Longhorn.” WinFS, of course, was removed from Longhorn after running into development problems. After surviving for a time as a separate development effort, it has entirely disappeared from view.
Katmai will also bring new features designed to help users build new business intelligence applications. On the plumbing side, Microsoft says it is boosting SQL Server’s capacity to manage large numbers of users and large amounts of data, and will improve the database’s query performance on large tables, optimize queries for data warehousing scenarios, and increase I/O performance. New changed data capture (CDC) functionality will assist businesses with the real-time loading of data warehouses, while more scalable volume management and integration services will help administrators keep it all properly sorted.
Katmai will also shine when it comes to building and running today’s cutting-edge business applications, according to Microsoft. Better hooks into Microsoft Office will continue to push Microsoft’s desktop suite as a key way to consume business intelligence, while an array of more advanced capabilities, such as SQL Server Reporting Services for building reports, and SQL Server Analysis Services for building dashboard applications with key performance indicators (KPIs) and the like.
Microsoft has historically trailed the business intelligence technology leaders, including Business Objects, Cognos, Oracle (which recently bought Hyperion), MicroStrategy, and others. But SQL Server Katmai may have the potential to turn Microsoft’s business intelligence fortunes around.
“Microsoft is charting a course to transform the BI marketplace as we know it,” said Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, said during the Microsoft BI Conference held in Redmond, Washington, last week. “By fundamentally changing the economic model for BI and delivering unprecedented ease of use, we’re enabling the broadest deployment of BI possible so employees can better contribute to a company’s overall business performance.”
Microsoft further boosted its business intelligence strategy last week with the acquisition of OfficeWriter, an application that enables users to access Excel spreadsheets and Word documents through a Web browser. OfficeWriter was developed by a company called SoftArtisans, out of Watertown, Massachusetts, but Microsoft only obtained the product, not the company. Microsoft plans to offer OfficeWriter alongside SQL Server Reporting Services.
The first community technology preview (CTP) for Katmai is reportedly due out in the next month or so. For more information, see www.microsoft.com/sql/prodinfo/futureversion/default.mspx.