For those of you eagerly anticipating the release of SQL Server 2008 the wait is over. Microsoft announced today that SQL Server 2008 has been released to manufacturing. The RTM of SQL Server 2008 comes almost six months after the launch of the product on February 27 of this year, along with Visual Studio 2008 and Windows Server 2008. The other products in the triumvirate RTMed months ago.

According to Microsoft, SQL Server 2008 is available today for MSDN and TechNet subscribers. The product will be available for evaluation download on Aug. 7, 2008. SQL Server 2008 Express and SQL Server Compact editions are available for free download today.

Over the last months pre-release versions of the product have been available via download to early adopters through a vigorous community technology preview (CTP) program. Microsoft says that there have been “more than 450,000 customer and partner downloads of SQL Server 2008’s CTPs.” In addition the company says that “more than 75 large-scale applications \[are\] already in production and more than 1,350 applications \[are\] being developed by nearly 1,000 independent software vendors (ISVs) on SQL Server 2008.”

While SQL Server 2008 isn’t the giant leap forward that SQL Server 2005 was, the product offers a number of new and improved data management, business intelligence (BI), and development features including support for policy-based management, auditing, large-scale data warehousing, geospatial data, and advanced reporting and analysis services. Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of the Data and Storage Platform Division at Microsoft, notes that “SQL Server 2008 is the only major database that includes comprehensive, tightly integrated functionality for data management as well as advanced business intelligence out of the box. By offering a complete solution, we save customers time and money and allow them to focus on deriving the most value from their data assets.”

Microsoft offers seven editions of SQL Server 2008:

  • SQL Server 2008 Enterprise, a comprehensive data management and business intelligence platform that provides enterprise-class scalability, data warehousing, security, advanced analytics and reporting support for running business-critical applications. With this edition, it is possible to consolidate servers and perform large-scale online transactional processing.
  • SQL Server 2008 Standard, a complete data management and BI platform that provides best-in-class ease of use and manageability for running departmental applications.
  • SQL Server 2008 Workgroup, a reliable data management and reporting platform that delivers secure, remote synchronization and management capabilities for running branch applications. This edition includes core database features and is easy to upgrade to the Standard or Enterprise edition.
  • SQL Server 2008 Web, for highly available, Internet-facing web-serving environments running on Windows Server. This edition provides tools to support low-cost, large-scale, highly available web applications or hosting solutions for customers.
  • SQL Server 2008 Developer allows developers to build and test any type of application with SQL Server. This edition features all of the functionality of SQL Server Enterprise but is licensed only for development, test, and demo use. Applications and databases developed on this edition can easily be upgraded to SQL Server 2008 Enterprise.
  • SQL Server 2008 Express is a free edition of SQL Server that features core database functionality including all of the new SQL Server 2008 data types, in a small footprint. This edition is ideal for learning and building desktop and small server applications, and for redistribution by ISVs.
  • SQL Server Compact 3.5 is a free embedded database designed for developers and is ideal for building standalone and occasionally connected applications for mobile devices, desktops, and web clients. SQL Server Compact runs on all Microsoft Windows platforms, including Windows XP and Windows Vista, and on Pocket PC and smartphone devices.

As Microsoft has announced previously, pricing for SQL Server will not increase with SQL Server 2008.

For in-depth coverage of the new features in SQL Server 2008 and practical information about migrating to the new release check out these articles and videos: “Migrating to SQL Server 2008,” “What’s New in SQL Server 2008,” “SQL Server as a Data Platform. . . Finally,” “How Do I Upgrade to SQL Server 2008,” “New Datatypes in SQL Server 2008,” and “Can’t Wait for SQL Server 2008.”

For commentary on the delayed SQL Server 2008 RTM see “Microsoft Pushes SQL Server 2008 RTM Back to Third Quarter 2008.”