It's summer. Schools are out; folks are heading out to vacation; it's time to sit back and take it easy. At least that's what I thought until I showed up at this year's TechEd in Orlando, Florida. There, I found out that the rumors are true: SQL Server 2008 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 1 has been released! Just last month in my commentary, "Microsoft's First-ever BI Conference Was a Success" (InstantDoc ID 96334), I rambled on about how SQL Server "Katmai" was to be released in 2008, and now Microsoft has gone on record branding it "SQL Server 2008" (SQL2008--looks weird doesn't it?) and even handing out CTP DVDs at TechEd.

Being the resident business intelligence guy, my personal favorites in the June CTP are the Change Data Capture (CDC), star join query optimizations, MERGESQL statement, and enhanced dimension design in Analysis Services. CDC will let applications (e.g., extraction, transformation, and loading) access records of database changes, which should improve performance and reduce application complexity. Star join query optimizations will reduce query response time by recognizing data warehouse join patterns. MERGESQL is a new T-SQL statement, which can insert information and update information with a single statement. The enhanced dimension design UI in Analysis Services will help developers use best practices when creating and editing dimensions.

Microsoft is trying to centralize public involvement in the CTP cycle by using the Microsoft Connect infrastructure (http://connect.microsoft.com) Microsoft Connect is a centralized, standardized Microsoft Web site that connects the software development process with interested developers in the partner and customer communities. The Web site replaces the past BetaPlace site and prevents each software product from having its own beta program site. As a registered Connect participant, last Friday I received an informative email, "SQL Server Connect Newsletter #1," which covers the CTP release and upcoming related events. You can check out the newsletter at http://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/content/content.aspx?ContentID=5634. Of notable interest is a series of six Web seminars that explains different aspects of SQL2008 and a pretty good technical white paper, "SQL2008 Product Overview," that highlights what's new in SQL2008.

If you're starting to get your feet wet with this early build, make sure to read SQL Server MVP Andy Leonard's blog. In one entry, Andy guides readers in great detail how to do a "SQL Server 2008 June CTP Risk-Averse Installation".

So right when I thought things were going to slow down for the summer, I've fallen behind again. Now I'm hard at work building a new Virtual PC to figure out what's working, what isn't, and what's of notable interest to me in the June CTP.