The pending release of SQL Server 2008 is starting to feel a bit more real now that the year on my calendar, the name of the product, and the planned release date all end in the number 8. Ready or not, we can all expect a growing drumbeat of press and excitement about the pending launch events and release dates for SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008, and Visual Studio 2008. As you probably know, SQL Server 2008 will be late for its own party because the official launch events for these products start in February, and SQL Server 2008 will still most likely be a few months away from being released to manufacturing. But heck, who doesn’t love a good party, and you won’t want to miss SQL Server 2008’s debutante ball. To peruse the launch event dates, go to http://www.microsoft.com/heroeshappenhere/register/default.mspx.

The launch events are branded under the theme “Heroes Happen Here” and kick off Feb 27 in Los Angeles. Registration for this event opened last week, and if the SQL Server 2005 launch serves as a guide, the SQL Server 2008 event will be immensely popular and you won’t be able to reserve a spot unless you register ASAP. In fact, I wrote the commentary you’re currently reading last week, and I can’t guarantee that the event won’t be sold out by the time you’re reading this commentary. More than 60 events are scheduled in the United States alone, with many other events planned around the world. Currently, the Los Angeles event is the only United States event open for registration.

The grand opening in Los Angeles is sure to have some sizzle because the top keynotes include Steve Ballmer, the best speakers from the Microsoft product teams, and other shows of extravagance. The exposition hall at this event is scheduled to have 75 or more partners highlight their wares in support of the three launch products. Also, there are sure to be some evening festivities that probably won’t be replicated at the other events around the United States. The local events might not be quite as glitzy, but you can still expect top-notch speakers as well as the same content, regardless of the event you attend. In fact, it’s certainly possible that the later events might end up with a few extra nuggets of educational value since the events schedule for the end of May will be much closer to SQL Server 2008’s release to manufacturing (RTM) date.

I can’t promise cake, streamers, and party favors at the launch events, but you will walk away with a promotional kit that contains all three products (although I don’t know which versions), and the educational experience should be well worth the investment of a busy day from your schedule. Enjoy.