Microsoft recently released the July Community Technology Preview (CTP) for SQL Server 2008. Of course, there will be many CTPs between now and the final release of SQL Server 2008, and I promise not to obsess about each one. However, one item in the press release accompanying the July CTP caught my eye: Microsoft indicated that SQL Server 2008 is "on track to RTM in Q2 of calendar year 2008."

Microsoft began talking up SQL Server 2008 at TechEd in June but at that time wouldn't narrow down the release-to-manufacturing date other than saying that the new version would ship in calendar year 2008. Announcing that a product will be available some time in a particular year can put a crimp in New Year's Eve party plans for the developers involved, since they're likely to be working right up to the bitter end. Saying that SQL Server 2008 is on track to RTM between April and June is a much narrower window, although it’s still not an ironclad guarantee.

The modified guidance with respect to SQL Server 2008 RTM will be especially interesting to customers who currently run SQL Server 2000 and are contemplating moving to SQL Server 2005 or perhaps leapfrogging straight to SQL Server 2008, as I discussed in "Skipping SQL Server Versions". The timeframe for leapfrog candidates was 18 months when I first shared those thoughts in "Leapfrogging to Katmai." Shaving an extra 6 months off the RTM date is an added consideration to potential leap-froggers. A year isn’t a terribly long time to wait when you’re talking about upgrading a production database, unless there's a compelling feature in SQL Server 2005 that you absolutely must have now. But realistically, many customers who require a particular SQL Server 2005 feature have probably already migrated or have migration plans in place.

Microsoft certainly won’t want SQL Server upgrade revenue to stall for an entire year, so if migrations to SQL Server 2005 begin to decline sharply, we could see Microsoft offer novel upgrade SKUs to entice people to make the move now rather than wait for SQL Server 2008. Of course, Microsoft's primary goal is serving its customers, and I'm sure that customers appreciate the earlier shipping date. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the reasoning behind the change in release date from "some time in 2008" to "on track for Q2" was to ensure that Microsoft employees whose compensation is tied in part to generating product sales can be selling the new version of SQL Server in Microsoft’s 2008 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008. Many Microsoft field-office employees have potentially large bonuses tied to hitting annual sales targets. Ensuring that the new version is available for sale in fiscal year 2008 reduces the chance that many sales professionals will have a miserable 2008 bonus because SQL Server 2008 product sales don't hit the books until fiscal year 2009.

I want to be clear, however: These are just my own personal thoughts and rambling and are not based on anything that someone at Microsoft has shared with me. You can download the July CTP from http://connect.microsoft.com/sqlserver.