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What’s New With VS and Data
Roger Jennings discusses the new data features that made it into Visual Studio and SQL Server 2005—and a couple features that were dropped late in the process.
by Patrick Meader

November 18, 2005

Roger Jennings writes frequently for VSM, in addition to serving as an advisor to the VSM editorial team on issues pertaining to data and Visual Studio, including SQL Server. Roger spoke recently with VSM Editor In Chief Patrick Meader about the new data features in Visual Studio and SQL Server.


PM: What do you see as the key new features of SQL Server 2005 for developers?

RJ: Obviously, CLR support draws the most attention from .NET coders, but there are plenty of other additions to SQL Server 2005 that will appeal to organizations needing a developer-oriented, enterprise-grade relational database management system. New varchar(max) and varbinary(max) columns replace the aging text and image data types. Cell-level encryption and integrated key management prevent disclosure of confidential information, even to DBAs with SA privileges. ReportViewer controls let Windows and Web apps display fully formatted tabular and crosstab reports—as well as charts and graphs—without running a Report Services server. The native XML data type and XQuery enables fine-grained, indexed searches on specific element and attribute values.

Multiple Active Result Sets (MARS) enable multiple concurrent SqlDataReader read and write operations on multiple SqlCommand objects that share a single SqlConnection object. MARS brings SQL Server 2005 to parity with Oracle and other RDBMSs that enable multiple readers on a single connection. The VS Data team's Angel Saenz-Badillos is "concerned that this feature is going to be misused." In other words, MARS gives .NET developers the opportunity to "shoot themselves in the foot"—forewarned is forearmed.

Developers should evaluate SQL Server 2005's Reporting Services, Report Builder, built-in native Web services, Service Broker for asynchronous server-to-server messaging with guaranteed delivery, and Query Notifications for invalidating a Web app's cache. However, don't expect to put projects that use these new features or run managed code in SQL Server's process without agreement by your DBA(s).

PM: How about new SQL Server 2005 features for data architects and DBAs?

RJ: Microsoft hopes this release will transcend SQL Server's department-level stigma by providing dual-core Xeon support in 64-bit SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition with a single-core license, adding 64-bit Opteron and Itanium versions, and delivering fail-over clustering. But there's no "free lunch" with the Standard Edition; a single CPU license increases from $4,999 to $5,999. High-availability features in the Enterprise Edition include partitioning, online indexing, online restore, transactional replication with Oracle databases, and advanced data and text mining. Enterprise Edition licenses remain at $24,911 per CPU. Unfortunately, there's no upgrade discount for SQL Server 2000 licensees.

The Gartner Group attributes much of the 10.3 percent growth of the total relational database market from 2003 to 2004 to new business intelligence features—data analysis, warehousing, and reporting—as well as the weakening U.S. dollar. Gartner's May 2005 report, which states there is no clear winner in the overall RDBMS market share race, gave IBM 34.1 percent, Oracle 33.7 percent, and Microsoft 20 percent of the total market. Steve Ballmer countered Gartner's 2004 revenue data at the San Francisco release event with the number of RDBMS server licenses for IBM DB2 (72,000) 10.0 percent, Oracle (245,000) 33.8 percent, and SQL Server 2000 (406,000) 56.1 percent. It didn't take a high business I.Q. to attribute a substantial part of Microsoft's lead-in licensed units to inclusion of Analysis Services (online analytical processing, or OLAP) with SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition. So the SQL Server team beefed up Analysis Services, included Reporting Services in all SQL Server 2005 editions, reworked Data Transformation Services into SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), and added new data-mining features. They also integrated Analysis Services, Reporting Services, and SSIS management with the VS 2005 UI and SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) as Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS).

When you consider SQL Server 2005's new business intelligence features and management tools, the extra $1,000 for the Standard Edition is a bargain. eWeek's Lisa Vass quotes an Edgewood Solutions LLC survey that claims new SQL Server 2005 features were sufficient "to make 31 percent of respondents consider switching from another database." (In this case, "another database" probably is Oracle.) If you don't need the Standard Edition's BI features, consider the $3,995 per CPU Workgroup Edition.

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