Last week in SQL Server Magazine UPDATE, Paul Thurrott reported that Microsoft officially delayed the commercial release of Yukon—tentatively named SQL Server 2005—until the first half of 2005. My best educated guess is that the current timeline looks something like this: SQL Server 2005 Beta 2 will ship during the first half of this year. Given that it's March and Microsoft still isn't talking about a ship date, Beta 2 will be available by June. Microsoft says Beta 3 will ship during the second half of this year. Assuming Beta 2 ships in June (as the current calendar suggests), Beta 3 will probably ship in late 2004. Furthermore, Microsoft says that SQL Server 2005's production version will ship "when it's ready" in the first half of 2005. If my timeline estimates for Beta 2 and Beta 3 are correct, it's safe to assume you won't be playing with production bits while watching the Rose Bowl next year.

So what does this delay mean to SQL Server professionals? The delay will mostly affect how people perceive Microsoft. I suspect that Microsoft's competitors will use this opportunity to question the company's ability to deliver enterprise software. Competitors might also use the delay to promote their own database products while questioning the value of a version of SQL Server that's five years old. If customers believe that the delay reflects negatively on Microsoft and that other vendors have fresher solutions, those perceptions might become the basis for software decisions.

However, the reality is that because SQL Server 2000 has been around for so long, it has become a stable code base. SQL Server 2000 has the performance and scalability power to handle the needs of today's enterprise database customers. SQL Server 2000 has some weaknesses in the high availability area, but you can easily get enough 9s to keep your bosses and customers happy. SQL Server 2000 is a mature and feature-rich platform that customers can use with confidence for the next year.

Do I think that Microsoft will lose potential customers because of the delay? Yes. Some customers who might have switched from UNIX to SQL Server will probably stay on UNIX for another product generation. Do I think that Microsoft will lose existing customers? No. SQL Server 2000 is a solid database platform, and many customers chose SQL Server because of large price differences between Wintel and UNIX database solutions. In my opinion, it would be silly to change systems because a vendor releases a shiny new bauble to play with. But what do you think? What effect will the Yukon delay will have on your organization?

I'll share your thoughts next week and further explore whether Microsoft has done the right thing by allowing SQL Server 2005's feature set to grow so large that the delay is necessary. I'll also discuss the thorny problem of Software Assurance customers, whose assurances will expire before the new version of SQL Server ships.