Don't you hate knowing an awesome secret when you can't tell anyone because you're sworn to secrecy? That's how I feel. Two weeks ago, the SQL Server MVPs attended a 2-day briefing in Redmond on upcoming features of the next major release of SQL Server, code-named Shiloh. I saw some cool features, but I couldn't tell anyone because I had been briefed under a strict nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Fortunately, I had the pleasure of attending Paul Flessner's keynote address at COMPASS '99 last week in Chicago. Paul's the general manager of SQL Server and he can talk about secret features whenever he wants. Paul was kind enough to spill the beans about a few Shiloh features, which means that lowly journalists like me can start writing about them! Beta 1 shipped about 2 weeks ago, but it's unlikely that you'll see many details or have good access to the software until at least beta 2 is released, and I don't know when that will be. Here's some info to whet your appetite until then.
- Full cascade, declarative referential integrity. Finally!
- Strong native support for Extensible Markup Language (XML). I heard a rumor that something called the Internet might become a big thing, so XML support is probably a good idea.
- Materialized views. These might not be too practical for most real-world situations, but at least Microsoft will be able to win $1 million the next time Oracle makes a bet. Check out Michael Otey's excellent editorial, "The Oracle Challenge," in the April 1999 issue of SQL Server Magazine if you're unfamiliar with materialized views and the Oracle $1 million challenge.
- Support for large memory configurations in the days of Windows 2000.
- 4-node clustering with Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS).
- Tight integration with Active Directory, which will solve many of the security and management bumps we deal with today.
- Support for running multiple instances of SQL Server on the same physical machine. This new support will make life easier for application service providers (ASPs) and data centers. Support for multiple instances will boost SQL Server's support for clustered environments. Today, people have to jump through an amazing number of Registry and configuration hoops to trick SQL Server into running two instances in the same physical node of a cluster.
- Microsoft is striving to make SQL Server the world's best platform for data warehousing. Part of the strategy includes state-of-the-art support for sophisticated data-mining techniques that the company will introduce in Shiloh.
- And, of course, support for Windows CE devices, which I talked about a few weeks ago.
I finally feel as if I'm getting a handle on SQL Server 7.0, and now I have to start learning all the cool new features in Shiloh. Sometimes I think I should have been a lawyer or something simple like that where my knowledge didn't become obsolete once a year.