Microsoft boosts Yukon configuration, management

Microsoft Corp. is pushing to make its SQL Server database more attractive to corporate users by simplifying its configuration and management while beefing up its scalability.

To that end, at the Professional Association for SQL Server Community Summit user conference in Seattle, executives from Microsoft discussed new extract, transform and load (ETL) capabilities as part of its next-generation Yukon enterprise database.

During a keynote speech yesterday morning, Gordon Mangione, vice-president of SQL at Microsoft, also announced the availability of a Best Practices Analyzer for SQL Server 2000. This tool comes with a checklist of 70 rules, compiled from the Microsoft development team and the SQL user community, to help database administrators configure their SQL installation and avoid the most common errors.

The offerings include pull-down menus, cover back-up and recovery, management and performance functions, among other operations. Mangione said Microsoft hopes to update the tool every quarter, with users eventually able to code rules to best suit their own environments.

Also coming to Yukon is a redesign of the SQL Server ETL architecture called Data Transformation Services (DTS), which will come with out-of-the-box features designed to ease the movement of data and make it easier to for companies to establish data warehouses and perform business intelligence operations, said Mangione.

He cited a boost in the parallelism of DTS, allowing database administrators to do multiple complex tasks simultaneously. For instance, an administrator can now translate data, read it and write it back out again in one flow. Microsoft has also opened up the software with a new application programming interface for developers who can work in Visual Basic or the .Net environment without having to master DTS-specific code. Scalability has also been boosted so that a process involving large loads of millions of columns of data can be executed in seconds, rather than minutes.

Some half-dozen users were interested in getting their hands on Yukon as well as some of the new DTS and analyzer features.

One Yukon beta-tester planning to install the database believes the bundled DTS technology could let her shop eliminate several custom-written middleware applications.

“That improvement will hit us heavy,” said Rebecca Lewis, database administrator at Townsend Analytics Ltd., a Chicago-based provider of financial software and services that currently runs its internal and customer facing operations on SQL Server 2000. Lewis is also interested in how accessible Yukon will be to Visual Basic programmers, because it will help the company coordinate development work around SQL “without dealing with so many third pieces,” she said.

On the other hand, at Dendreon Corp., a biotechnology firm that runs SQL 2000, users are being patient about the advent of Yukon. Dan Slyfield, a database administrator at the Seattle-based company, said he sees Yukon as a “bigger and better” version of SQL, although he said the software is already competitive with rivals such as Oracle.

“We’re not overly anxious for it,” Slyfield said. “It’s still a ways away (for maturity). Generally, we’re not an early adopter for new technology and don’t bring it into the company until its functionality has been proven.”

Mangione said about 10,000 users have downloaded Yukon.

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