Although the next release of SQL Server (code-named Yukon) is still a future topic, the information that Microsoft has revealed about the upcoming product release is both exciting and troubling. Some of the upcoming changes will require many DBAs to acquire new skill sets. In particular, one of Microsoft's stated goals with the Yukon release is the integration of the Microsoft .NET Framework's Common Language Runtime (CLR) with SQL Server. This integration has some huge implications for developers and DBAs. Probably the biggest change will be the expanded ability to use any of the .NET languages, such as Visual Basic .NET or C#, to create stored procedures, functions, and triggers. Although T-SQL isn't going away, it will no longer be the only game in town, so DBAs will absolutely need to be conversant in one or more of the .NET languages. Even if you don't intend to take advantage of these new programming languages for writing database objects right out of the box, you can be sure that many application vendors and developers will begin incorporating these new SQL Server CLR enhancements into their applications. The DBA will need developer-like language skills to know that these new database objects and applications are working the way they're intended to.

Using the more capable .NET languages to build database objects lets you make those objects more complex. Plus, unlike T-SQL, which is designed to work with data sets, the .NET languages aren't designed with set-at-a-time processing in mind. These two factors increase the likelihood that well-meaning developers who aren't database-savvy will build inefficient data-access routines. To prepare for this situation, DBAs need to not only understand the .NET languages but also be intimately familiar with Profiler, SQL Server's performance-analysis tool. Using Profiler can help you quickly diagnose data-access problems and illustrate the nature of these problems to developers and application vendors.

Although some of the upcoming Yukon enhancements certainly bring challenges with them, these challenges will have corresponding opportunities as well. Advanced language support helps put SQL Server on an even playing field with the other enterprise database products such as Oracle and IBM DB2. As Microsoft implements these enterprise-oriented improvements, I'm certain that SQL Server will continue to climb upward into the enterprise, giving SQL Server DBAs and developers bigger and better job opportunities as well.