With the assistance of a heavily armed and battle-ready robot, Microsoft executive Paul Flessner on Tuesday promised that the new versions of the company's enterprise database and application development environment will ship in early November.
SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 will ship the week of Nov. 7, said Flessner, Microsoft's senior vice president of server applications, during his keynote speech in Orlando at the company's TechEd 2005 conference for IT professionals and developers. BizTalk Server 2006, the company's business-process management server, will be launched that week as well, but it will ship in the first quarter of 2006, he said.
Flessner also announced that Microsoft is developing an RFID (radio frequency identification) technology infrastructure built on top of Microsoft's .Net Framework software platform that is being designed so it can be either used on its own or integrated with other applications.
The upgraded servers and the new RFID technology all fit into Microsoft's strategy of fostering Web services-based distributed-computing architectures, which Flessner said offer the flexibility and scalability enterprises need to meet their business goals.
He acknowledged that IT vendors haven't precisely made it easy for customers to develop and deploy this type of computing architecture, but pledged notable enhancements from the Microsoft front. "In the past, we as an industry, Microsoft and other vendors, haven't helped you guys a lot here and that's something we need to a heck of a lot better job," he said.
"I'm not saying you need to throw out all your existing systems and rewrite (applications). Wrap existing systems: we do it, a lot of our customers do it. It is something to think about architecturally as you go forward. Think hard about breaking the applications into atomic services or business services and exposing those services as Web services," he added.
On Tuesday, Microsoft also released the first pre-release version of SQL Server 2005 available to the public; it can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/sql/downloads. Also available for download from Microsoft's Web site is a tool to help users migrate from Oracle databases to SQL Server, Flessner said.
SQL Server 2005 is already in use in production internally at Microsoft with over 80 line-of-business applications, including the company's SAP AG implementation, and at several customer sites, Flessner said. "No one in the world wants SQL Server 2005 to ship more than me," he said.
Among the improvements in SQL Server 2005 are integrated development and debugging capabilities made possible through integration with Visual Basic 2005 and .Net, he said.
SQL Server 2005 also features a service broker for asynchronous queueing and native XML support, he said. Security has also been enhanced, an ongoing effort since a string of serious vulnerabilities hit the product in 2002, a situation for which Flessner apologized.
Regarding the RFID initiative to link this object scanning technology with line-of-business applications, Flessner said: "It's a super important technology." He said Microsoft may deliver this RFID infrastructure next year. A Microsoft official joined him on stage to demonstrate an early version of this technology, which Microsoft is using at TechEd to track the flow of attendees to different areas of the convention center where the event is taking place.
Meanwhile, Flessner referred to Visual Studio 2005 as the most comprehensive application development environment Microsoft has ever created, saying it will significantly reduce developers' need to write code. It also offers sizeable performance improvements, he added.
The most dramatic part of the keynote was undoubtedly when a so-called battlebot called Finalizer took the stage during a demonstration of SQL Server 2005 and destroyed a piece of server hardware, to show the failover capabilities of the database. Finalizer was developed using .Net technologies by Aspsoft Inc.