The New RAS: Reliability, Availability, and Scalability - 09 Mar 2000

After a week of hard-core SQL Server saturation at last week's Windows DNA Readiness Conference in Denver, you'd think I'd have a zillion things to talk about, but my brain is fried from information overload. I'll need several weeks and many late-night sessions with my conference DVD before I begin to absorb all the new information.

Microsoft developers and program managers presented 91 sessions over the conference's 4 days, and I attended 15 of them. What about the 76 sessions I didn't get to? Normally, I'd be mad at missing out on so much great material, but I don't care this time. Why not? Because for the first time that I'm aware of, Microsoft is sending attendees all conference session content in PowerPoint format and as NetShows (full audio/video DVD). Attending a conference is much more pleasant when you don't have to scribble furiously to capture every word of your favorite presentations. And you don't have to pull out your hair in angst when two killer sessions are offered at the same time. I hope Microsoft receives enough praise about the DVD offering that it provides the same benefit at all future conferences. When such practices become the norm, even third-party conference companies will follow suit, and the world will become a much better place for geeks.

Note that the DVDs won't ship for about 60 days. I also understand that Microsoft plans to ship all of the NetShows along with the SQL Server 2000 beta 2 CD and post them on the Web. I'll let you know how to find this valuable information when it becomes public.

Although my brain is still spinning, I came away from the conference with two key thoughts. First, speaker after speaker stressed RAS as a common theme, and this time we're not talking Remote Access Server. RAS stands for reliability, availability, and scalability—the keys to SQL Server's acceptance as an enterprise-class database platform. Does SQL Server 2000 have the RAS pedigree to be a serious contender? Can SQL Server 2000 provide two or three "nines" of availability? Will Microsoft vanquish its Oracle and DB2 foes? Time will tell. But in some ways, the perception of whether Microsoft can deliver RAS is more important than the reality. I'm convinced that Microsoft can deliver the goods when it comes to SQL Server RAS, but Microsoft must convince you as well. Expect Microsoft to focus its formidable marketing engine on this topic, serving up RAS case study after case study. At the same time, expect other database vendors to poke as many holes as possible in SQL Server's RAS story. Ultimately, you'll make the call, but you'd be foolish to bypass SQL Server 2000 for ultra-high-end enterprise consideration just because "it didn't used to be" competitive in that market.

The second key thought? SQL Server's data mining enhancements showcased at the conference were incredibly, amazingly, and indescribably cool. I'm reminded of a line from the movie The Graduate: "Plastics." Data mining is the future of value-added database technology. I'll explain why in an upcoming issue.

In the meantime, check out two new white papers on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) SQL Server Developer site:

Kalen Delaney and Hal Berenson cowrote the query processor paper. As most of you know, Kalen wrote Inside Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 and is a columnist for SQL Server Magazine; Hal is part of the brain trust responsible for the relational engine within the SQL Server development team. The MegaServer white paper drills down into key features used to achieve the stunning TPC-C numbers Microsoft announced two weeks ago. Both are must-reads.

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