Birth of the Data Tier Architect

The lines are blurring. In the beginning, server products did one thing and one thing only. Databases managed data, mail servers processed mail, and Web servers dispensed HTML. Today, seeing where one server product begins and another ends is difficult. SQL Server 2000 is a great database, but it's becoming much more as it begins to offer functionality previously considered the domain of other back-end servers.

For example, how you do define your Web server if you use SQL Server to distribute Extensible Style Language Transformations (XSLT)- transformed XML over a native HTTP connection? If you attended Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) this year, you might have seen presentations about SQL Server File System (SQLFS). This handy file system gives you access to SQL Server data through standard Win32-based file-system APIs. Where does your network file server end and your SQL Server database begin if the database looks exactly like a mapped network drive?

Microsoft's new .NET Enterprise 2000 Servers such as Commerce Server and BizTalk Server are beginning to rely more and more on SQL Server. For example, Commerce Server 2000's Business Internet Analytics relies 100 percent on SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services and Data Transformation Services (DTS). And BizTalk Server stores its data in SQL Server, using it as its core data-persistence engine. You can't install Commerce Server or BizTalk Server without SQL Server as an underlying foundation.

Unquestionably, the database lies at the center of everything e-business. And as the lines blur between database technologies and the server products you use to build these e-solutions, the lines delineating the professionals who support these technologies also blur, creating a new position I call a data tier architect (DTA). Imagine the DTA as a combination top-notch COM developer, senior SQL Server DBA, and .NET Server infrastructure engineer. For better or worse, modern technology has grown too complex for one person to be an expert in everything. Someone must handle the logical and physical data needs of the highly scalable, highly distributed, loosely coupled solutions that today's businesses need. That person is the DTA.

The idea of the DTA fits perfectly with Microsoft's new .NET Enterprise 2000 Servers. At first glance, you might think that BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, Exchange Server, IIS, and the other .NET Enterprise Servers have little to do with the life of a database professional. That might be true if you're a DBA. But these products are essential if you plan to play the role of DTA in building the next generation of Internet systems.

Attending Developer Days 2000 is a great way to sample the new .NET servers and learn how each of them plays an interdependent part in building next-generation Web solutions. Developer Days will be held across the United States on Tuesday, October 10. Many cities are already sold out, but you still might be able to register. Find out by going to Microsoft's Web site.

To view the launch video and other .NET information, go to Microsoft's Web site.
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