At last week's Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Summit in Seattle Washington, I got the opportunity to talk to several Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) about their current software offerings and some of their future product plans. One thing that I found really exciting was that even a full year after the its initial release, vendors are still excited about SQL Server 2005, and lot of new SQL Server 2005 products are on the way. However, I was surprised at the number of existing and new products that don’t include SQL Server 2005 Express Edition as an installation option. Many vendors are requiring the use of an existing SQL Sever installation for their products. Others are still using MSDE.

I found this trend surprising for several reasons. Just about all of the products I looked at used SQL Server as a data repository, and few, if any, of them require capacity that exceeds the limits of SQL Server 2005 Express. SQL Server 2005 Express supports up to 1GB of RAM and multiple databases of up to 4GB, which enables its use as a data repository for a pretty good-sized application.

Next, in addition to its more-than-adequate capacity, SQL Server 2005 Express licensing and redistribution rights make it easy for ISVs and in-house software providers to include SQL Server 2005 Express with their products. The primary restriction in including SQL Server 2005 Express with a third-party product is that you must add significant functionality beyond what’s offered in the product itself. This basically means you can’t repackage and resell SQL Server 2005 Express as a database program, but you can freely use it as a database for an application that provides additional functionality. Plus, as part of your installation, you need to make sure that distributors and end users have the ability to read and accept the SQL Server 2005 Express end-user license agreement.

Those are the only real technical requirements. In addition, you need to register for redistribution rights, which essentially means that you notify Microsoft of your intent to redistribute the product. Microsoft has also significantly improved the SQL Server 2005 Express installation process, so it’s easier to install than MSDE. The new SQL Server 2005 Express installation process is Windows Installer (MSI) based and supports automated installations.

Any ISV that's distributing applications that use a SQL Server database back end should definitely be planning to include SQL Server 2005 Express as an installation option--as long as the application’s requirements don’t exceed the capacity of the SQL Server 2005 Express database. For most applications, SQL Server 2005 Express’s capacity is more than adequate, plus the licensing and installation capabilities really remove the other potential hurdles. In the end, the most important part is that the option provides customers with more choices, and that's always a plus.

You can find out more information about redistributing SQL Server 2005 Express and register for redistribution rights at: http://www.microsoft.com/sql/editions/express/redistregister.mspx . In addition, you can find information about how to bundle SQL Server 2005 Express as a part of your own installation process at the SQL Server Books Online (BOL) help topic "How to: Install SQL Server 2005 from the Command Prompt" at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms144259.aspx .