Believe it or not, the next release of SQL Server—SQL Server 2008—is right around the corner. For software vendors in the SQL Server marketplace, a new release is always a good thing because it never fails to generate renewed interest in their products. On the product side, all the players get swept up in the release enthusiasm. But releases aren't necessarily good news for customers.
Many of the customers I'm in contact with are still struggling to adopt most of the new features in SQL Server 2005. Features such as the integration of CLR, the new HTTP endpoint capability, Notification Services, SQL Service Broker, and even Integration Services take a lot of time and effort to implement. For instance, incorporating them into existing databases and applications often requires design changes, which require lengthy development, testing, and deployment cycles to roll out updates for those databases and applications. And before those cycles even happen, there's often a planning period where companies evaluate the new features in a release and then examine where those features might be a good fit for their processes. This effort doesn't come lightly for organizations of any size, and it's a process that can take months or years to actually complete. With SQL Server 2005, many companies are just now in the initial development phase. And they're far from ready for a completely new release with an all-new feature set.
With precious little fanfare, Microsoft has put the SQL Server 2008 release on the table for early 2008. Though details about the new release are still sketchy, some of the main features that Microsoft announced at the Business Intelligence Conference 2007 in Seattle include an even stronger emphasis on business intelligence (BI). (For more information about the features in SQL Server 2008, see http://www.microsoft.com/sql/techinfo/whitepapers/sql2008Overview.mspx.) But those businesses that are already lagging behind in their BI adoption aren't clamoring for new BI capabilities. Although SQL Server's BI features are certainly one of the key differentiators that give it a competitive advantage over Oracle and DB2, BI features such as Analysis Services and Data Mining aren't used by all SQL Server organizations. Previous SQL Server Magazine Instant Polls indicate that only about 25 percent of readers use Analysis Services. (If you stretch the definition of BI to include Reporting Services and Integration Services, the percentage of shops that implement BI is much higher as most SQL Server 2005 organizations use these features. Although Microsoft likes to categorize Reporting Services and Integration Services as BI features, most organizations that use them wouldn't consider themselves BI implementers.)
I can't help but think that the upcoming SQL Server 2008 release will be too soon for most SQL Server–based businesses, which are still trying to incorporate the 2005 feature set into their applications. I'd love to hear what you think about SQL Server 2008. Are you chomping at the bit for a new release of SQL Server? Or is SQL Server 2008 just too much too soon? Let me know what you think; drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.