SQL Server 2008: 'Katmai'
Another step on the road to integrated data and applications.
In 1912, Katmai, an active volcano on the Alaska Peninsula, imploded over a
period of three days in the most violent eruption of the 20th century. In the
process it lost its peaks as they subsided into the void left by escaping lava,
and had a large lake form in its caldera. This is a rather unusual legacy for
Microsoft to use as a code-name for its upcoming SQL Server 2008, which is available
as a beta download.
Microsoft lists four areas of improvement and enhancement for SQL Server 2008:
mission-critical platform, dynamic development, beyond relational data and pervasive
business insight. It was a bit difficult for me in a brief test to look at how
Katmai may be a mission-critical platform -- especially in beta form -- but
I did take a closer look at development and data management.
It doesn't do a lot of good to touch on SQL Server without talking about what
it does for developers, so I also installed the Visual Studio 2008 beta.
One technology enabled by the use of the .NET Framework 2.0 is the ADO.NET
Entity Framework. This Framework enables developers to work with logical data
entities that have a meaning within the context of the application, instead
of accessing data directly with database tables and columns.
Language Integrated Query (LINQ) also fits in here. The new LINQ extensions
to the .NET Framework and languages extend Visual C# and Visual Basic .NET to
support a SQL-like query syntax natively. You write your query directly into
your code, using data access constructs. It does away with the need to write
SQL directly in the application code.
And, of course, you have the whole .NET Framework to work with here. That supports
the ADO.NET Entity Framework, but also enables you to write .NET code on the
database server. While it's not yet a substitute for T-SQL for triggers or stored
procedures, it does provide a level of flexibility in integrating applications
and data not available with other databases.
To Relational and Beyond
Most database management systems have to deal with more than textual and numerical
data arranged in rows and tables. They have to be able to organize, store and
retrieve geographical data, music clips, videos and all the part and parcel
that make up business and personal life.
SQL Server 2008 enables developers to work with and manage any type of data
in their apps, from traditional data types to advanced geospatial data. The
new FILESTREAM data type allows large binary data to be stored directly in an
NTFS file system while letting the data remain an integral part of the database
and maintaining transactional consistency. The database also enables applications
to model tree structures in a more efficient way.
Despite all of the improvements for developers, perhaps the most far-reaching
improvement surrounds data protection. SQL Server 2008 enables encryption of
an entire database, data files and log files, without the need for application
changes. This feature alone helps it in its goal of being a trusted platform
for mission-critical applications and data storage.
SQL Server 2008 offers support for occasionally connected applications by using
a synchronization mechanism that enables synchronization across applications,
data stores and data types. It lets you create occasionally connected applications
using Visual Studio by way of new synchronization services in ADO.NET and offline
designers in Visual Studio. It also provides support for change tracking, so
that there's no surprise when a data store is modified when a disconnected application
re-accesses the database.
It's unlikely that Katmai will be an implosion on the scale of the volcanic
eruption of almost a hundred years ago. In fact, it shouldn't be an implosion
at all. SQL Server 2008 should see ready adoption as a replacement for earlier
versions of SQL Server, as well as more gradual use for new database installations
in applications that require data encryption and nontraditional data-management
along with support for occasionally connected applications.
Peter Varhol is the executive editor,
reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software
developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees
in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university