While Microsoft Corp’s SQL Server 2005 was officially launched over a week ago, TD Canada Trust reports that it is already using the database tool to streamline its report-generation processes.
According to Lawrence Engel, associate vice-president, risk strategy development and risk retail management for the Toronto-based financial institution, TD Canada was one of the beta testers for SQL Server 2005.
Released last week, the feature set of SQL Server 2005 includes embedded reporting and data analysis tools, and an integrated data management and analysis platform. These features are designed to help enterprises run business applications and handle vital information.
Microsoft appears to be targeting enterprise-class users with this latest release – which features capabilities such as database partitioning, parallel index creation, 64-bit processor support and, by the middle of next year, database mirroring.
TD Canada Trust – which has moved to a 64-bit computing environment – is taking advantage of some of these new features.
The bank used to consolidate information from a variety of disparate sources, and this often required IT staff to manually input data into Excel spreadsheets for analysis. The bank’s retail risk analysts were spending a great deal of time generating data reports, Engel said.
He said TD Canada Trust needed a better method to coordinate more than 50 types of reports generated for its executives and credit centres nationwide.
The choice of SQL Server 2005 is in line with the bank’s move to a 64-bit computing environment, Engel said, adding that the shift increases the firm’s overall computing capability. “We needed a solution that would allow us to basically cut through a significant amount of information over a very [short] period of time, and [offer us] the flexibility to engineer this sort of infrastructure ourselves given the resources of our department.”
The current setup, he said, was developed over a four-month period. The new environment features OLAP functionality, runs on a HP (ProLiant DL585 Opteron) hardware platform, handles 30GB of data each month.
The impact on the IT team has been around better productivity and reduced costs, Engel added. “We’ve been able to reallocate resources to other departments to more important tasks and have pushed the whole notion of drill down capabilities into our business partner’s hands, alleviating a lot of ad hoc requests.”
Last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said SQL Server 2005 should eliminate any “last bit of hesitancy” that enterprise users may have about the database’s ability to scale.
Microsoft has long been a major force within the low-end Windows database market. According to Stamford, Conn.-based IT research firm Gartner Inc., the company controlled exactly half of that part of the market last year. But Microsoft’s share of the overall database market was about 20 per cent. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant hopes to use SQL Server 2005 to chip away at the high-end strongholds of Oracle Corp.’s 10g database and IBM Corp.’s DB2.
According to one industry insider, the SQL server upgrades are long overdue, and something end users have long waited for.
SQL Server 2005 represents the first upgrade of the database software in five years, said Warren Shiau, an IT analyst with Toronto-based research firm, The Strategic Counsel.
Shiau also noted the ISV population is perhaps more aligned with Microsoft than rival database vendors. A recent report from the firm (sponsored by Microsoft) claims that 77 per cent of ISVs believe SQL Server 2005 is the most critical enterprise database platform for supporting future growth.
But Oracle Canada’s David Rumer countered that claim. Noting that the study was paid for by Microsoft, he said the current release of SQL 2005 still lags behind Oracle’s 10g database in terms of functionality.
The senior director of marketing for the Mississauga, Ont.-based firm said the fact that it’s taken Microsoft five years to release the database upgrade is evidence of that. “If you’re working with SQL 2005, you’ve got a lot of limitations in the choices you can make. You’re locked into Windows, you’re locked into a specific development environment …we’ve gone with open standards allowing customers to work on Windows as well as Linux.”
TD Canada Trust initially looked at other database offerings, but ultimately decided that SQL Server 2005 was a more cost-effective solution for the bank, and one that could handle the firm’s high-end IT environment, Engel said.