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Microsoft Provides Beta JDBC Driver for SQL Server

Microsoft Corp. unveiled its first ever Java-based driver for accessing data in a SQL Server database on Tuesday at a Java developer's conference in New York.

The beta version of the JDBC driver, which Microsoft plans to post as a free public download later this week, will give developers of Java applications a Redmond-endorsed way to access data stored in Microsoft's SQL Server database.

Microsoft traditionally has reserved its SQL Server database for Microsoft technologies, such as Microsoft languages that rival Java -- C, C++ and C#. The JDBC driver will also support the J2EE development environment -- a rival to Microsoft's fledgling .NET development environment.

With the release of the final version of the driver in early 2002, the SQL Server group could be seen as winning a minor battle against the so-called "strategy tax" within Microsoft -- the requirement that Microsoft products adhere to overall company initiatives even when another approach on an individual product may be more useful to customers.

Similarly, back when Microsoft was in danger of being split by the courts, some analysts suggested that SQL Server would gain market share against key rivals Oracle and IBM DB2 if it was ported to platforms other than Windows NT.

Microsoft's SQL Server lead product manager Jeff Ressler disagreed that providing a JDBC driver for SQL Server 2000 runs afoul of the company's past practice.

"I think this is really complementary to all the other data access work that's going on across the company. We have been across the board always focused on making our server products accessible from a variety of languages," Ressler said.

Ressler said the decision to release a JDBC driver, which Microsoft is licensing from Merant DataDirect, was customer-driven.

"We really got a lot of feedback, all sizes of customers, from large enterprises to small shops, who really did want to take advantage of SQL Server with Java," Ressler said.

Analyst Mike Schiff with Current Analysis sees the move as tactical.

"Java developers can easily make SQL Server their database of choice. You've got something written in JDBC, put us [Microsoft] in the middle," Schiff says.

The JDBC driver will run on Solaris, HP-UX, AIX and Linux in addition to Windows 2000 with Service Pack 2 and Windows XP. Although Windows NT 4.0 is not explicitly supported, Ressler quipped, "There's a highly likely chance that it will run." Microsoft still has some major questions remaining for how it will distribute the free driver.

"The key question is: Is it available to everybody or just to enterprise customers? We need to do some business-side analysis of what kinds of applications those customers are building," Ressler said.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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