SQL Server: From Database to Data Platform

Paul Flessner, senior vice president of server applications at Microsoft, recently released an open letter to the SQL Server community describing Microsoft's database platform vision for the next decade. Today we'll explore a few of the topics Flessner covered, but I encourage you to read the entire letter at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/letter.mspx. Perhaps one of the most interesting items in Flessner's letter is the move towards viewing SQL Server and related technologies as a data platform instead of just a database.

The letter outlines Microsoft's vision of "Your Data, Any Place, Any Time," the company's cohesive strategy for dealing with the ever-expanding amount of data that needs to be tracked, stored, and seamlessly accessed. In his letter, Flessner says, "Today, the cost of storage continues to be on an amazing trajectory; one could reasonably expect that the cost of a terabyte will be reduced from about $1000 today to $100 in 2007...and the petabyte will be a standard measure of personal storage."

Wow! That's a lot of storage. Honestly, it's hard to imagine ever needing that amount of space at a personal level, but then again, there is a lot of junk in my desk.

"Your Data, Any Place, Any Time" is a catchy slogan, and I suspect it will be getting a lot of air time at Microsoft events, briefings, and strategy sessions. Over the next several releases of SQL Server, Microsoft plans to invest heavily in the following four key areas:

  • Continuous Availability and Automation
  • Beyond Relational
  • Dynamic Applications
  • End-To-End Insight
  • What kind of timeframe can we anticipate for Microsoft's vision to unfold? Flessner's letter says, "We will work on this vision over the next several releases of SQL Server, which we expect to deliver on a anticipated schedule of one release approximately every 24-36 months." If Microsoft is planning on new releases every two to three years, then we can assume the company will be strategically working on SQL Server for the next decade. Assuming that these ideas aren't a flash in the pan, it probably pays to start becoming aware Microsoft's vision, especially if you're a SQL Server professional. Of course, if you're not a hard-core SQL Server jock, you might still be wondering how and when you're going to upgrade to SQL Server 2005, and worrying about the next decade might be a bit beyond your timeline for now.

    The term data platform might be a subtle change, but I think the platform emphasis says a lot about Microsoft's plan for "Your Data, Any Place, Any Time" over the next decade. How does this vision affect us today? Well, in the short-term, I don't think we'll see a lot of changes in the day-to-day operations of SQL Server, at least in terms of new features not already delivered in SP1. Mirroring is the only feature in SQL AlwaysOn sub-branding that is actually delivered now. Stick around, as I'm going to explore that angle in a lot more detail next week. In future editions of SQL UPDATE, we'll be reviewing what Microsoft means when they say they plan to invest in the four key areas mentioned above. Today, these ideas are more vision than meat.

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