Microsoft wants SQL Server 2005, code-named Yukon, to be the premier database environment for developers. A host of new features, such as a new Visual Studio-like interface and Microsoft .NET integration, are designed to make life easier for developers who use Microsoft-based development tools. Alas, Microsoft might not be the first of the Big 3 database vendors to commercially release a database platform that offers native support for .NET.

It's easy for SQL Server professionals to ignore important advancements in the IBM DB2 and Oracle spaces, but DB2 might steal SQL Server's glory and become the first kid on the block to offer deep .NET and Common Language Runtime (CLR) support directly within the database engine. In reading the current issue of DB2 Magazine, I felt like I could have been reading SQL Server Magazine or MSDN. All the articles were championing the upcoming release of DB2 UDB 8.2, code-named Stinger, expected for release this fall. Here are some Stinger features that sound like they come directly from SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005 playbooks:

  • Automatic tuning capabilities, including a Design Advisor, targeted at small and medium-sized businesses that don't have a full-time DBA
  • The ability to write stored procedures and user-defined functions (UDFs) in any .NET-compliant language hosted within a version of the CLR that runs within the database engine
  • More wizards to help DBAs and developers
  • Automatic generation of Web services and ADO.NET classes
  • Server-side debugging that leverages the Visual Studio .NET cross-language debugger

I believe that IBM plans to battle SQL Server on its home turf, striving to be a "better SQL Server than SQL Server" for Visual Studio developers looking for a database experience that feels native to their familiar development models. Clearly, the articles I read were full of marketing hype, and I can't claim any direct knowledge about whether Stinger will offer Visual Studio integration that genuinely feels native to Windows developers. So I'm not suggesting that SQL Server developers throw up their hands in despair and migrate to DB2. However, SQL Server-centric professionals who understand what competitors are offering in the market are well served.

There will be interesting reviews and bake-offs within Big Blue corporate shops that have both a large investment in mainframe DB2 and a large contingent of Windows developers as companies choose a platform for their next right-sizing effort. At the very least, Microsoft will be embarrassed if IBM becomes the first major database vendor to offer .NET CLR support directly within the engine. Maybe Microsoft should be flattered that IBM made tight integration with the Windows development environment a priority for DB2 UDB 8.2. But I'd wager that behind the scenes at Microsoft, there will be some nail biting if Stinger is first to market with .NET integration. We'll have to hope that SQL Server 2005 is worth the wait and will remain the "best SQL Server on the block" for Windows developers.