At the first Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference, held in Seattle last week, the company announced the target ship date and new details for the follow-on to SQL Server 2005. In an interview with Computerworld at the conference, Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of Microsoft's data and storage platform division, said the new version, code-named Katmai, will include support for unstructured data and offer new management features and improved scalability.
Can you be more specific about the release date for Katmai?
In terms of the when, we're really happy with SQL Server 2005 and how it is doing for customers. The other thing we have heard from customers is that five years was a bit too long [to develop SQL Server 2005]. We made a decision to have releases of SQL Server on 24-to-36-month intervals. [Katmai] will ship in calendar year 2008.
What are the primary new features in Katmai?
One of the big investments we are making is in the declarative management framework. The notion is being able to manage and verify by intent. [For example], my data is configured in a way that is compliant with the policies I want to enforce.
We also are adding [support for developers] to raise data up to business terms. I have some data in relational tables that represents a customer object or product object. I can make that available in business terms.
In Katmai, we have a big set of investments around data warehouse scalability. [SQL Server 2005 showed] we're no longer just the data mart around the data warehouse. We are performing in those high-scale, mission-critical data warehouse deployments today. We are making a big investment to increase scale in storage, in the engine and the query processors.
Will Katmai's support for unstructured data help companies grapple with the longtime problem of accessing and analysing things like call centre notes and field technicians' summaries?
You need to be able to deal with that unstructured data as part of your applications. A great example would be in the medical industry, where you want to attach imaging data to patient records. When I am slicing and dicing my business data,I also need to be able to access and view attributes that are unstructured. That is absolutely a part of this.
Microsoft has said that it overhauled the entire engineering process of its platform division in part because of long SQL Server 2005 delays. Is Katmai being developed using that new process, and what were the significant changes?
The team coming off of SQL Server 2005 did take an end-to-end look at our engineering processes. One of the goals was around delivering more regular releases and engineering ourselves to deliver on these releases frequently. It is important for us to make a division between the things we want to ship in the next release and also invest in things for the longer term.
Along the way, we will make sure we are delivering things on this regular 24-to-36-month cadence and being conscious about where we are doing things for the longer term versus those for the next release cycle.
Is it true that there will be no beta releases of Katmai, only Community Technology Previews?
Yes, CTP was very successful for us in terms of releasing SQL Server 2005, and we will be using regular and frequent CTPs.
Will Katmai be as significant as the SQL Server 2005 release?
Customers will tell us and will decide the kind of release this was for SQL Server. We have a lot of functionality coming in this release. We're going to be moving the bar significantly in all these areas.