The release of SQL Server 2005 has seemed so close but yet so far away for so many years that it's easy to lose sight of the fact that SQL Server 2005 is finally (I hope ) just around the corner. If you're not planning to move to SQL Server 2005 right away, don't worry--we realize that a large percentage of the SQL Server community will be on SQL Server 2000 for years to come. But because SQL Server 2005 is the first major upgrade in years, many readers are ready and eager for information about it. I'll begin to share SQL Server 2005 topics more regularly over the next few months. This week, I want to point you to the Microsoft article "Expanding the SQL Server Product Line" at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=6904:7B3DB . This article provides a high-level overview of planned features for different SQL Server editions: SQL Server Express, SQL Server Workgroup Edition, SQL Server Standard Edition, and SQL Server Enterprise Edition. The feature list in the article isn't particularly detailed, perhaps because decisions for all the feature-edition mixes haven't been finalized. However, I've learned about a few interesting features.

I was most excited to learn that SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition will include Database Mirroring, the new technology that lets you have realtime mirroring of a database to another server. This type of high availability is different from SQL Server 2000 failover clustering, which is based on a shared-disk paradigm. I think it's great that at least some level of mirroring will exist in Standard Edition. I've always felt that Microsoft made a strategic error in keeping the most important high-availability features (e.g., log shipping, clustering) out of SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition. It's reasonable to reserve some advanced high-availability features strictly for Enterprise Edition. But it's also in Microsoft's best interest to ensure that customers have a reasonable level of high-availability support in the Standard Edition. Microsoft tells me that database mirroring in SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition will lack a few minor features. Specifically, the Standard Edition will include only one redo thread for the mirror, and mirroring must always operate in safe mode.

However, I was disappointed to learn that Report Builder (which I wrote about in "SQL Server 2005 CTP3 Reporting Enhancements," http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=6901:7B3DB ) is currently planned as an Enterprise Edition-only feature. Microsoft is pitching Report Builder as a tool that lets business-class end users build their own reports. It's a great tool, but regardless of how good it is, I don't see people spending the extra money for Enterprise Edition just to get an end-user report writer. I hope Microsoft will come to its senses before finalizing the SKU features. Check out the full Microsoft story for more details about the features planned for each edition.