Publicly, Microsoft loves and supports Java. But let's face it, Java is a four-letter word to most people in Redmond. Microsoft architects (especially the .NET folks) probably wouldn't mind if Java and its related platforms simply faded away so that Microsoft could get on with the business of saturating the world with Windows and .NET development tools and languages.

Even so, working with Java in the SQL Server environment just got a lot easier. Microsoft and MERANT DataDirect recently announced the release of a beta version of the Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) Driver. According to Microsoft and MERANT, the driver provides JDBC access through any Java-enabled applet, application, or application server and supports Java Development Kit (JDK) versions 1.3, 1.2, and 1.1.8. The driver delivers high-performance, point-to-point, and n-tier access to SQL Server 2000 across the Internet and intranets and runs on Windows XP, Windows 2000 with Service Pack 2 (SP2), AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, and Linux. The driver is Compatibility Test Suite (CTS)-certified for the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) platform and fully supports JDBC API functionality on the J2EE platform, including stored procedures, batched queries, and universal metadata. In addition, the driver fully supports optional JDBC API functionality, including the Java Naming and Directory Interface (JNDI) technology, the Java Transaction Service (JTS) API, and connection pooling.

Microsoft might not like Java, but the company is tickled pink when SQL Server displaces the leading UNIX databases at customer sites. Making it easy for Java developers to access SQL Server by using well-supported JDBC interfaces is a necessary step in Microsoft's war to win market share from folks encamped in the UNIX database world. SQL Server might be less expensive than Oracle and other UNIX databases—and recent benchmark numbers might be winning SQL Server respect as an enterprise-class database—but no one likes to rewrite code. Making it easier for JDBC-based database applications to talk to SQL Server is a smart move on Microsoft's part.

I'm happy when Microsoft listens to customers. I spend a lot of time answering questions on the Microsoft public newsgroups at msnnews.Microsoft.com, and people often post questions such as, "How can I connect to SQL Server using JDBC?" Pure third-party solutions are certainly available, but Microsoft Product Support Services will directly support this solution. Microsoft's stamp of approval on a JDBC driver will give many folks a warm, fuzzy feeling of stability when they consider a JDBC-based connection to SQL Server.

The JDBC driver is available for download from Microsoft's Web site, but Microsoft hasn't announced final pricing or licensing arrangements.