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FTPOnline Special Report: SQL Server

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Microsoft SQL Server Turns 17
After 17 years of non-stop development, SQL Server 2005 now has what it takes to give Oracle 10g and IBM DB2 a run for the money in the enterprise-scale, multiterabyte database market. But the SQL Server team didn't abandon its traditional small- and medium-size business customers.
by Roger Jennings

May 2, 2006

Microsoft SQL Server has come a long way since the release of Ashton-Tate/Microsoft SQL Server 1.0 on May 8, 1989, which had been announced by Ed Esber and Bill Gates on January 13, 1988 at a New York City press conference. The theory was that Ashton-Tate's dBASE IV would act as the programmable front end for an OS/2-hosted version of Sybase's SQL Server. dBASE III had 63 percent of the PC database market in 1988 and needed a client/server back end to handle multiple database users. Microsoft needed a client/server database to bring its version of OS/2 up to par with IBM's combination of OS/2 1.1 Presentation Manager and Database Manager. (Later, OS/2 Database Manager became DB2/2 for OS/2 and DB2/6000 for IBM's AIX flavor of Unix.)


From my early perspective as an MS-DOS database programmer, dBASE III+ Developer's Edition was the best thing since sliced bread—bulletproof and fast on the Intel 80x86 PCs of the time with 640-KB RAM. But dBASE IV turned out to be incredibly buggy and extremely slow; Ashton-Tate's database market share dropped to 43 percent in 1989 as a result of competition from FoxBase and Clipper.

Microsoft dropped Ashton-Tate from the SQL Server equation in 1990 with SQL Server 1.1, which ran under Windows 3.0 and OS/2 2.0; I turned to Clipper for larger single-user projects. Later, I became a beta tester for SQL Server 4.2 for Microsoft OS/2 v1.3 LAN Manager and then version 4.21a for Windows NT 3.1, also known as SQL Server for Windows NT. For the first time, SQL Server 4.2+ contained code contributed by Microsoft and Sybase. In those days, both the operating system and the database engine came on 3.5-inch diskettes.

By the end of 1993, I had convinced most of my Fortune 500 clients to migrate to SQL Server 6.0 running on Windows NT 3.1, although National Semiconductor continued to run DB2 under MVS on a Hitachi mainframe and Sybase SQL Server on IBM AIX boxes. Microsoft rewrote and augmented the Sybase code for SQL Server 6.0. Microsoft Access 1.1+ and Visual Basic 3.0+ quickly became my front ends of choice for Microsoft and Sybase SQL Server 6+, as well as DB2.

"Sphinx" (the codename for SQL Server 7.0), OLE DB, and ADO were the topics of one of my early client/server articles for Visual Basic Programmer's Journal (VBPJ), the predecessor of Visual Studio Magazine (VSM). SQL Server 7.0, which RTM'd on December 2, 1998 during COMDEX/Fall '98 in Las Vegas, was an immediate hit. SQL Server 7.0 exchanged devices for NTFS MDF and LDF files; introduced row-level locking, self-tuning, and self-management; provided the Starfighter (Enterprise Manager) client with the DaVinci query design toolset; added online analytical processing (OLAP) features; and delivered the freely distributable Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE) 1.0. Microsoft based the OLAP Services on the Plato product line that the company had purchased from Israel's Panorama. Scalability increased dramatically from the SQL Server 6.5 baseline and Microsoft's TerraServer proved the feasibility of managing terabyte databases with SQL Server 7.0.

PC Week (now eWeek) said, "SQL Server takes a big step toward enterprise capability and introduces dramatic ease-of-use improvements with Version 7.0 of the database server" and named SQL Server 7.0 Best of Productivity Software and Best of Show at Comdex. VarBusiness magazine gushed, "SQL Server is a part of the platform that makes data warehouse and business intelligence much more accessible to customers. … SQL Server 7.0 out-of-the-box contains a robust set of widely supported services and technologies unmatched by Oracle8i, Oracle Data Mart Suite or Oracle Warehouse Builder" (see Resources).

Microsoft released SQL Server 2000 on August 7, 2000. This version enabled running multiple server instances on a single machine, improved Analysis Services, added data mining capabilities, delivered an updated MSDE 2000, gave developers new XML capabilities with SQLXML, and implemented new clustering technology. Datamation anointed SQL Server the Product of the Year for Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence. Less than a year after the release of SQL Server 2000, the SQL Server product line was selling at the rate of one billion dollars per year (see Table 1 and Resources). According to The OLAP Report, Microsoft's share of the total OLAP market, which includes OLAP client and other software as well as consulting income, rose from 7.5 percent in 1999 to 28 percent in 2005 (see Table 2 and Resources). Microsoft consistently topped Gartner's relational database ranking for year-to-year market share growth, and SQL Server 2000 had garnered 20 percent of the $7.8 billion worldwide relational database management system (RDBMS) market for by 2004 (see Table 3).

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