Microsoft releases preview of SP1 for SQL Server 2005

Microsoft Wednesday released a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the upcoming Service Pack 1 for its SQL Server 2005 database.

New features in SP1 include full database mirroring to offer real-time data backups and SQL Server Management Studio Express, which is designed to help database administrators run the free version of SQL Server 2005, according to Ilya Bukshteyn, Microsoft's director of product management for SQL Server. SP1 is on schedule for final release next month.

This is the first CTP ever released for SQL Server or its Service Packs. Microsoft, which has traditionally released between one and three beta versions of a software product before its final release, has moved toward CTPs -- which arrive very two to three months -- for certain products, including SQL Server, Visual Studio and the client version of the Windows operating system, said Bukshteyn.

He acknowledged that Microsoft was partially inspired by the success of the open-source model of software development. "The thing that is very powerful is being open and transparent with the community," Bukshteyn said.

More than 50 companies are already using SQL Server's database mirroring, which was available in the initial release of SQL Server 2005 in November. It was not considered production-ready at that time.

Chip Andrews, chief IT officer for Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga., and webmaster for a Web site on SQL Server security issues, said he is "very happy" with SQL Server 2005 itself. But "the tools have undergone some serious changes, so I have had more stability problems with them than the SQL Server 2005 query engine itself," he added. "Hopefully SP1 will address those issues, as well as increase performance of the Management Studio."

SP1, which is about 250MB in size and can be downloaded at www.microsoft.com/sql/ctp_sp1.mspx, includes fixes for bugs and other technical problems but no security updates this time around, Bukshteyn said. Security patches for SQL Server will in the future be available on an immediate, ad hoc basis as well as in the Service Packs.

One "ongoing" security complaint about SQL Server 2005 is the "still-vast number of extended stored procedures that can be executed by even low-privilege user accounts," said Andrews. "They still give normal users too much of an opportunity for mischief."

Microsoft has not publicly discussed how well SQL Server 2005, which took five years to ship, is selling -- apart from revealing late last month that SQL Server revenue from its most recent quarter had grown 20 percent over the same quarter a year earlier.

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