Some of you have dutifully been ramping up for SQL Server 2005 throughout the long beta cycle. Others of you barely have enough time in the day to keep up with your current production and development needs. Playing with new versions of SQL Server months before it ships would be great, but who has the time?

If you fall into that latter group, the trick to ramping up might be to learn in bite-sized amounts. Don't have time to dedicate a full week or even a few days to playing with and learning about SQL Server 2005? How about 1 hour at a time? Microsoft has publicly released more than 30 on-demand Webcasts that provide a great way to bone up on SQL Server 2005. You can browse a comprehensive list of all the current SQL Server 2005 Webcasts--as well as some new ones scheduled for August and later months--at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=10AEB:7B3DA .

Another great resource is a series of nine Microsoft e-learning classes. Microsoft has valued them at $99 each, but they're available right now for free download. I don't know when or if Microsoft will start charging for them, but I've always been a big fan of free stuff, so I suggest you grab them while you can from the Get Ready for Microsoft SQL Server 2005: Microsoft Learning Resources site at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=10AEA:7B3DA . If you want to learn about SQL Server 2005 administration, you can check out these three classes:

  • 2936: Installing and Securing Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • 2937: Administering and Monitoring Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • 2938: Data Availability Features in Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • Developers can ramp up their SQL Server 2005 knowledge with these three classes:

  • 2939: Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • 2940: Building Services and Notifications Using Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • 2941: Creating the Data Access Tier Using Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • And anyone who works with business intelligence (BI) can tune in to these three classes:

  • 2942: New Features of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services
  • 2943: Updating Your Data ETL Skills to Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • Integration Services
  • 2944: Updating Your Reporting Skills to Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services
  • If you're not sure which classes to try first, three online skills assessments are available to help you understand what you do and don't already know about SQL Server 2005. You can take the classes entirely online, and you can also download the course content so that you can review the classes while you're disconnected from the Internet. The classes that I downloaded show an expiration date of November 2, so presumably Microsoft may begin to charge for the classes after that date.

    The resource site points out that you might encounter a compatibility problem when viewing the material if you've installed the June SQL Server 2005 Community Technology Preview (CTP). According to the site:

    "If you downloaded the SQL Server June 2005 Community Technology Preview (CTP) in mid-June, you, you may encounter difficulty in accessing the e-learning courses due to a compatibility issue between the e-learning player and the MSXML parser that shipped with the Beta. If you do experience this difficulty, please access the e-learning courses from a computer that does not have the SQL Server 2005 Beta installed until Microsoft can implement a fix."

    This is the first time I've experimented with the Microsoft e-learning classes. It's actually a nifty model. You can navigate through the slides, access various demonstrations and videos, and the classes include a section to take notes about each slide as you progress.

    Feel swamped and still don't think you have time to take this route? Let's face facts: You have to learn SQL Server 2005 because sooner or later your job will probably depend on it. Rome wasn't built in a day--and you won't learn SQL Server 2005 overnight. But do yourself a favor and start learning about SQL Server 2005 one baby step at a time. You'll be glad you did!