Last week, Microsoft released the second SQL Server 2005 Community Technical Preview (CTP). I wrote about the CTP program a few weeks ago (see "Technology Previews Deliver Pre-Beta 3 Peeks at SQL Server 2005" at http://www.windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/44291/44291.html ). Microsoft will release SQL Server 2005 CTP builds more frequently than it does for typical beta cycles, primarily to speed up the feedback cycle so that the company can incorporate as much user input as possible into SQL Server 2005's final release. SQL Server 2005 CTP 2 is now available to all Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers. Non-MSDN subscribers can't directly download or acquire the CTP builds, but your local Microsoft field office will probably be open to distributing the bits to customers who are interested in exploring SQL Server 2005—just use your usual channels for communicating with your local Microsoft sales representatives.

The second CTP includes several performance and quality fixes, 64-bit support for Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services and Integration Services (formerly Data Transformation Services—DTS), the ability to browse tables and view data directly from the Management Studio interface, a graphical view designer, enhancements to graphical Showplan support, and a new Job Activity Monitor UI in SQL Server Agent.

Microsoft has also released a Technical Preview for SQL Server Express Manager. This is a new, free, database-management tool built on the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0. Express Manager is designed to manage SQL Server 2000, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine (MSDE), and SQL Server 2005 Developer and Express Edition databases on both local and remote computers. This tool is a boon to MSDE users who, for the most part, have been relegated to using unlicensed copies of Enterprise Manager, buying third-party tools, or relying on the command line to manage MSDE.

The Express Manager CTP supports SQL Server 2000, but remember that using beta software in production environments isn't smart unless you carefully control and manage the software with support from Microsoft. You can find the Express Manager CTP download at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=8f92556a-6c3b-47d2-9929-ecdc5a4d25ae&DisplayLang=en .