SQL Server 2008 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 6 is now available and is a more important milestone on the march toward SQL Server 2008’s release to manufacturing (RTM) than many of the other SQL Server 2008 CTPs. SQL Server 2008 CTP6 is “feature complete,” which means that Microsoft won’t be adding or removing features between now and RTM later this year. Now, that’s not to say that all the features currently work the way they should or have been tuned for performance; it is a beta after all. However, what you see is what you get with respect to what the product will include when it actually ships. According to Microsoft’s press release about the SQL Server 2008 February CTP, this CTP includes

  • Data Compression, which reduces the storage and manageability cost of your database and provides significant performance improvements for workloads such as data warehousing.
  • Enhancements to Policy Based Management, including policy violation alerts, policy import, the ability to run and evaluate multiple simultaneous policies, view the facets and evaluate policies when Object Explorer is connected to Analysis Services and Reporting Services, and more.
  • Integrated Full Text Search, which makes the transition between Full-Text Search and relational data seamless while enabling the use of full-text indexes to perform high-speed text searches on large text columns.

SQL Server 2008 CTP6 will be given out to attendees of the upcoming “Heroes Happen Here” launch events for SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008, and Visual Studio 2008. If you’ve stayed out of the SQL Server 2008 CTP fray so far, now is a good time to start understanding the new product.

I’ll be pretty embarrassed if I find out that Microsoft has been doing this in previous SQL Server 2008 CTPs and I simply didn’t notice, but the download options in SQL Server 2008 CTP6 caught my eye because there are separate links for IT Pros and developers. Although both groups will download SQL Server 2008, Microsoft says that the evaluation and support experience will be tailored to the needs of each audience. Downloading SQL Server 2008 from either of the links requires a Windows Live ID, which includes your email address, so based on whether you select the IT Pro link or the Developer link, Microsoft promises to feed relevant and interesting material to your Inbox. Frankly, I haven’t had time to fully research how Microsoft is tailoring the evaluation and support experiences for each audience, but it’s an interesting approach. I’ll do some digging in this area and revisit the topic in a future editorial. For now I’ll simply wonder out loud if tailoring the evaluation and support experiences to each audience will be harder than Microsoft thinks. For example, I noticed that the Web site description of IT Pro mentions business intelligence (BI) but the developer description doesn’t. Heck, I know a lot of DBAs who can’t spell BI and a lot of developers who focus on BI.

You can download SQL Server 2008 CTP6 from http://www.microsoft.com/sql/2008/prodinfo/download.mspx. As of right now, Microsoft is planning to release a public release candidate of SQL Server 2008 prior to RTM, but doesn’t have plans to release a SQL Server 2008 CTP7.