In a recent letter to employees, Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer explained the strategic direction that the company would take going forward and propped up workers whose motivation might be sagging during a difficult period. But Ballmer's comments were most interesting for the tidbits they offered about technologies that he says are key to the company's future successes. And one of the products he singled out is Yukon, the next release of SQL Server.

"Calendar 2001 will be a very big year for Microsoft," Ballmer wrote. "Building on the successful launch this year of Windows 2000 and our .NET Enterprise Servers, we must invest in the success of two of the most important products in the company's history" (i.e., Whistler—the next version of Windows—and Microsoft Office 10).

But now that Microsoft is close to shipping Whistler and Office 10, Ballmer called for a new focus. "We recently made the decision to not ship the Local Web Storage system with Office 10 in order to focus all of our energies across the company on Yukon—the next release of SQL Server."

Before all Microsoft servers were united under the .NET brand last year, competition between the Exchange and SQL Server product teams had heightened when the Exchange group rejected the SQL Server data store in favor of its own Jet-based data store. Ballmer's note seems to signal an upcoming victory for SQL Server.

"We have many other important products coming next year and in subsequent years," Ballmer continued. "However, I want to squarely put one other technology and release on people's radar. We are working on a technology that I mentioned above—code-named Yukon—that will be key to our next-generation storage, database, file system, email, and user interface work. This technology is two years or so off but is a core .NET and Windows technology, and we will ask all development groups to organize their product plans to have new versions available in that time frame based on Yukon and our .NET programming model."

A few years ago, Microsoft regularly prepped developers for the future by discussing the three "pluses," a set of technologies that would shape the company's architectural work in Windows. Microsoft shipped COM+ with Win2K in February 2000 as the next generation of Microsoft's component programming and management technology. Meanwhile, bits of Forms+, which Microsoft envisions as a melding of desktop and Web-based interfaces, will appear in Windows and Visual Studio.NET releases later this year. But details about the data storage member of the strategy, Storage+, have been conspicuously lacking. In fact, during SQL Server 2000 development, Microsoft decided to drop a feature that might have added a relational database-based file system to Windows. Now it appears that this work continues in Yukon. If you can take Ballmer's words literally, Storage+ will finally arrive with the Yukon release, along with a move to the SQL Server data store for many of the company's products, including, apparently, Exchange.