Albeit overshadowed by the upcoming release of Windows Vista and Microsoft Exchange 2007 and the release of the 2007 Microsoft Office System this November, SQL Server is having a big month. This week, we've seen excellent attendance at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) 2006 Community Summit in Seattle. While I was in Las Vegas last week at the well-attended SQL Server Magazine Connections conference, a colleague noted that it was the one-year anniversary of the November launch of SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, and BizTalk 2006 in San Francisco (for more information see "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Backstage for Launch Activity," November 2005, InstantDoc ID 48546), and Microsoft coincidentally chose to release to manufacturing (RTM) Windows Vista and the 2007 Office System during this anniversary week.

So now, one year after the release of SQL Server 2005, conference attendance is at a high, showing that SQL Server attendees want to learn from real-world experiences now that the release has "settled" into their workplace. Outside of conferences, upgrade and migration training and consulting demand is at an all-time high. Interestingly (given an interdependence I will touch on) last week the SQL Server team also released the first public Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Service Pack 2 (SP2). In keeping with a practice first introduced with Service Packs for Reporting Services 2000, Microsoft is using Service Packs to release new features and performance optimizations rather than just patches and bug fixes. We got significant features in SQL Server 2005 SP1 (e.g., the much-anticipated Database Mirroring feature), but SP2 looks like it's going to be a blockbuster, and a lot of it is focused on business intelligence (BI).

To read details about the new functionality and features in SP2's CTP, see "What's New in SQL Server 2005 SP2" at. Here are some of the BI highlights:

  • Data-mining add-ins for the 2007 Office System, which enable data-mining functionality from Analysis Services to be used directly within Microsoft Excel 2007 and Microsoft Visio 2007.
  • Analysis Services performance and functionality improvements for Excel 2007 and Excel Services.
  • SQL Server Reporting Services integration with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, which allows integration with the Report Center feature in SharePoint and provides seamless consumption and management of Reporting Services reports within SharePoint.
  • Oracle support in Report Builder. Developers will be able to build Report Models that use Oracle relational data sources, so users will now be able to use Report Builder to access information in Oracle.
  • Hyperion support with Reporting Services. Organizations will now be able to use Reporting Services to build reports on top of Hyperion Essbase cubes.
  • Data compression through a new varDecimal data type, which is important for data warehouse scenarios and is specifically important for SAP Business Information Warehouse (BW) scenarios. This requires less disk storage of decimal data, which increases overall performance.
  • Support for Windows Vista, which means SQL Server 2005 Developer and Express editions with SP2 will be supported to run on Vista.

Don't miss the CTP version of the Feature Pack for SQL Server 2005 SP2 (available at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=7a9ad90f-7f95-4369-a206-e84053d63fd3&displaylang=en). It includes the latest versions of standalone installs of redistributable components, add-on providers, and backward-compatibility components for SQL Server 2005. If you want to get started with SP2, I encourage you to download a copy today from the SQL Server Community Technology Preview Program and start working with it. Be sure to provide feedback and log your bugs.

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