I attended the Microsoft Tech Ed 2005 conference in Orlando, Florida last week and want to share Microsoft's most important SQL Server announcements with you. The company has finally nailed down the SQL Server 2005 launch for November 7. SQL Server 2005 has been in the works for a long time. For me, now that Microsoft has announced a fixed launch date, the product feels much more real because I know that it will soon be in the hands of the community. That's exciting because SQL Server 2005 includes an incredible number of new features that will greatly enhance the flexibility and power that we have when architecting solutions on top of SQL Server. The countdown begins!

Speaking of getting SQL Server 2005 into users' hands to build production applications... Microsoft announced that seven customers are already running SQL Server 2005 beta versions in live production environments. And that doesn't include the 80 applications (or more) that Microsoft has spread across 10 SQL Server 2005 instances managing multiple terabytes of data within the company. The company anticipates having more than 20 external customers running live on SQL Server 2005 before product launch in November.

Microsoft also released the SQL Server 2005 June Community Technology Preview (CTP) at Tech Ed. Each subsequent CTP release makes the product richer in fully implemented features and more stable. Based on Microsoft's release of world record TPC-C and TPC-H numbers, the company has made significant progress in terms of scalability. Early versions of a beta are never tuned for performance. Microsoft is more worried about making it work, than making it run fast. But performance clearly becomes a more important topic as the product moves closer to release to manufacturing (RTM) and we can expect even better numbers from SQL Server 2005 on these tests by the time that the product ships. I'll leave exploring the implications of these numbers for a future editorial, but I want to share a few highlights. The SQL Server 2005 TPC-H numbers show a 162 percent performance gain over SQL Server 2000. The new TPC-H scores show a 38 percent higher performance than Oracle's best score on a 16X Intel Itanium 2 server for 20 percent less cost. On the TPC-C side, SQL Server 2005 has regained the world record on a Windows platform by posting a score that tops the one million transaction-per-minute (TPM) mark. This score is 7 percent higher for 35 percent lower cost than Oracle's best result on a 64-processor Itanium 2 server.

Last week, I discussed the license-model changes for SQL Server Reporting Services (see "Microsoft's Reporting Services 180" at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=C62D:7B3DB ). Here's a quick summary: Reporting Services will ship in all editions of SQL Server 2005, and Report Builder will be included in the product's Enterprise, Standard, and Workgroup Editions.

Finally, the SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) for Oracle is now available for download at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=C631:7B3DB . SSMA is a toolset that will automate Oracle-to-SQL Server application migration.

Download the newest CTP and keep exploring. SQL Server 2005 will be here before you know it, and time is growing short to make sure you're ready for it.