Microsoft announced today the worldwide availability of SQL Server 2000 Beta 2, a feature-complete preview of the next version of SQL Server. SQL Server 2000, code-named Shiloh, offers a slew of improvements and new features, including end-to-end support for XML, an integrated and improved data-mining engine, and new clustering and scaling features. The data-mining engine, previously known as OLAP Services (code-named Plato), has become simpler and easier to use--while adding support for clustering and decision tree data-mining algorithms. And a new Analysis Services feature provides easy access to Web data and analysis. "SQL Server 2000 will anchor \[the Windows DNA 2000\] platform by delivering unequaled support for Web technologies, deeply integrating business intelligence features, and making software scaling a reality for the most demanding e-commerce scenarios," says Paul Flessner, Microsoft's vice president of database and middleware development. After SQL Server 2000's Web development improvements, scalability is probably this release's big story. SQL 2000 includes a new Distributed Views feature that lets customers divide the database workload across multiple independent SQL servers. It now supports four-node failover clustering and log shipping, and database views can now be indexed for better performance reporting. SQL Server 2000 integrates fully with Windows 2000 Active Directory, if installed, giving administrators a single point of management. If you're interested in SQL Server 2000 Beta 2, visit the product's Web site ( for more information and instructions for obtaining a copy (it should be available sometime today). (Microsoft Developer Network--MSDN--Professional and Universal subscribers will receive it automatically.)