REDMOND, Wash., July 11, 2004 —
— Database developers and administrators (DBAs) who are eagerly awaiting the release of Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Microsoft’s next generation data management and analysis platform, can take immediate action to prepare their enterprises for deployment.
The SQL Server 2005 Ascend Program was created by Microsoft as a way for industry partners and their customers to adopt the next-generation data management and analysis software before it is made available to the public. Ascend goes well beyond conventional beta testing programs, providing industry partners with training tools and hands-on labs to walk them through and build confidence for the process of migrating applications to SQL Server 2005 (formerly known by the codename “Yukon”).
To coincide with presentations on the SQL Server 2005 Ascend Program at this week’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, PressPass convened a roundtable discussion with Tom Rizzo , director of product management for SQL Server at Microsoft, Bob Beauchemin , principal scientist, DevelopMentor, Reed Jacobson , senior architect, Hitachi Consulting, and Robert Beatty , vice president, Scalability Experts, to learn about the Ascend Program.
PressPass: What is the SQL Server 2005 Ascend Program all about?
Tom Rizzo, Director of SQL Server Product Management
Rizzo: The Ascend Program takes established methods for early-adopter and beta programs for industry partners and customers a big step forward by adding deep technical training, including a hands-on lab that accelerates the process of migrating applications to SQL Server 2005. Industry partners and customers benefit from participating in the program by receiving complimentary training for SQL Server 2005, both from Microsoft and industry partners that are experts in consulting and training. Also, by receiving the beta version before it is released to the public, SQL Server 2005 Ascend Program participants can prepare their technology to migrate to the new version and create applications that not only work with it, but exploit new features and capabilities in powerful ways.
We have lined up three terrific Expert Content Providers (ECPs) — DevelopMentor, Hitachi Consulting and Scalability Experts — driving technical readiness and delivering the content for the SQL Server 2005 Ascend program. We hope the ECPs will make the migration process easier for Ascend Program participants by providing them with training and consulting opportunities. The offerings that the ECP provide are an example of the kind of quality resources Microsoft is providing to ensure that our industry partners and customers are successful on this platform.
Beatty: The Ascend Program has allowed us to bring tremendous knowledge value on the cutting-edge features of SQL Server 2005 to Microsoft customers. At Scalability Experts we believe that without knowledge, technology is a risk. Our content team has focused on the main challenges organizations face when leveraging SQL Server 2005 in the most demanding and high-end situations. The Ascend Program guarantees that Microsoft customers and industry partners alike can obtain the real-world knowledge necessary to be successful with SQL Server 2005. In-depth knowledge is critical to successfully deploying any technology and the ECPs are bringing this value to Microsoft customers in an important way.
PressPass: What does it mean to your business to be an Expert Content Provider in the SQL Server 2005 Ascend Program?
Beauchemin: We get a chance to show our teaching and writing skills to people from a variety of companies who may not have attended a DevelopMentor class or heard of us in the past. The Ascend Program is great for getting customers to think about how to use the new SQL Server 2005 features in their current applications. And there are vendors out there who may be thinking of supporting or migrating to SQL Server 2005; this program gives them information and hands-on experience that allows them to push in that direction.
Reed Jacobson, senior architect, Hitachi Consulting
Jacobson: We’re delighted to be counted as an ECP for the SQL Server 2005 Ascend Program. At Hitachi Consulting we’ve worked hard to develop broad and deep capabilities in Business Intelligence (BI) and we’re happy to share our expertise with other developers. The Ascend Program will certainly help our current customers who are working with the BI components of SQL Server 2005 as they come up to speed on what’s new with the product. We see this program cutting months off the learning curve for developers who are just starting to integrate BI capabilities into their applications.
Beatty: We hope we can share that excitement with the whole SQL Server community through our blog, which will highlight what we are learning while working with and teaching about SQL Server 2005.
PressPass: Why are industry partners so important to the success of SQL Server 2005?
Rizzo: The SQL Server 2005 Ascend Program is a fantastic example of the most important thing Microsoft provides its industry partners: collaboration. By being involved in a program like this one, customers and industry partners gain early access to a variety of resources designed to assist them with implementation and to afford them the knowledge to really leverage new features. In turn, customers and industry partners provide Microsoft with feedback that is critical to product development.
Industry partner and customer participation is key for the quality and functionality of SQL Server 2005. Through the Ascend program, participants test the beta applications in their real-world scenarios and provide consistent feedback to the SQL Server 2005 development team. This feedback is helping to identify and correct potential problems long before the official release of SQL Server 2005. Participants also impact the product by extending their applications to support new features in SQL Server 2005.
Jacobson: Our partnership represents a powerful relationship between two leading organizations combining their strengths in order to deliver a complete solution to our customers. Microsoft offers its tools and solutions while we bring depth in technology, industry and domain knowledge. Together we can provide a set of integrated go to market strategies and services focused on our clients’ needs.
PressPass: What kind of technical training, consulting and support are you preparing for the SQL Server 2005 Ascend Program?
Robert Beatty, Vice President, Scalability Experts
Beatty: We’re also launching new consulting products focused specifically on SQL Server 2005 while updating our present offerings to incorporate the new platform.
Beauchemin: I’m preparing a five-day instructor-lead class training for SQL Server 2005 developers, which will be available at locations worldwide.
Jacobson: We’re also in the process of building a five-day, intensive course to cover developing applications using all of the BI components of SQL Server 2005. And we expect to conduct technical seminars and Webcasts across the globe.
PressPass: How do these kinds of offerings improve upon previous early-adopter and beta programs?
Beauchemin: The Ascend Program includes deep hands-on sessions built by training experts, technical architects and the SQL Server 2005 development team. The concept of instructor-lead training in a group environment is a new step. SQL Server 2005 has such a host of unique features that it’s really compelling for participates to learn about them. Making training available on media or as part of a conference, as is generally done, doesn’t provide the same value as live, instructor-led training.
Rizzo: Response from Ascend participants to the ECP training and expertise has been overwhelmingly positive. If customers and industry partners have been involved with instructor-led trainings and stayed up-to-date through the ECPs’ blogs, participants will already be migrated to the new version when it launches in the second half of 2005. By utilizing the activities provided by the ECPs, Ascend participants can be assured that the applications they build will work with SQL Server 2005. This program is an example of one way that Microsoft works with industry partners to provide new functionality and migration support — even before the product is publicly released.
PressPass: How will the Ascend Program accelerate the process of migrating to SQL Server 2005 for your customers?
Beatty: Our customers are constantly looking to solve complex business problems with cost effective, robust database solutions. Success with current SQL Server customers is attracting a number of enterprise organizations that may currently be using competing relational database management systems (RDBMS) in their environment. This segment of the market is challenging the Microsoft solution to match the big-iron mainframe and UNIX performance that customers are used to. SQL Server 2005 is a critical step in the right direction in meeting these customers’ expectations when it comes to scalability, availability, reliability and cost of ownership. We’re extremely excited to work with this new breed of customer and help them adopt SQL Server 2005 to replace expensive legacy RDBMS.
PressPass: What’s the best part of the Ascend Program?
Beatty: Sharing with customers what it takes to be successful with SQL Server 2005 in the high-end enterprise. This release has a plethora of features that substantially enhance the capabilities of its predecessor. We can’t wait to take our knowledge of what SQL Server 2005 can do to the doorsteps of enterprise organizations.
Bob Beauchemin, Principal Scientist, DevelopMentor
Beauchemin: It’s the hands-on, instructor led, detail-oriented training. This makes Ascend participants aware of what SQL Server 2005 has to offer and how it works and gives them a chance to try it out, early, in a risk free environment. From there, it’s a short step to implementing it in their own application software
PressPass: How has working with SQL Server 2005 in the Ascend Program influenced your thinking about the software?
Jacobson: Probably the most impressive strength of SQL Server 2005’s new Data Transformation Services is the ability to create solid, structured applications that don’t require workarounds in order to implement loops and other complex flows. One of my favorite features in Analysis Services is the smooth integration of relational and multi-dimensional storage modes. And across the board, the focus on multi-lingual support and the ease of deployment is really exciting.
Beauchemin: It’s expanded my horizons beyond ordinary database programming to think of the database as a larger part of the platform. So much so that I wrote a book on it! Some of the particularly compelling features are XML/XQuery support, CLR code in the database, security and T-SQL enhancements, the service broker, and Web services hosted by SQL Server 2005. Snapshot isolation is also very compelling as a feature on its own. There are so many fantastic features here that I was afraid developers would be overwhelmed. But the Ascend Program has taken care of that by providing training and access to SQL Server 2005 team members in a lab setting.
Beatty: The coolest feature I have worked with is database mirroring. I consider this to be the “killer app” for SQL Server 2005. This makes high availability far easier to setup than clustering and potentially much cheaper since there is no unique clustering hardware compatibility requirements. High availability made simpler and cheaper –you’ve got to love that.
Other exciting innovations are the online indexing, the ability to specify a DOP for index creation, online restore, isolation snapshot level, not having to stop and restart SQL Server 2005 when changing sp configure settings and the use of sparse files for database snapshots. Working with SQL Server 2005 in the Ascend Program has shown me that Microsoft continues to build on past success. SQL Server 2005 has taken the success of SQL Server 2000 and built an even stronger product for the enterprise.
Rizzo: SQL Server 2005 Ascend participates can log on to http://msdn.microsoft.com/sql/ to access the blogs from each of the ECPs. Stay tuned for more information about more training opportunities throughout the year and the upcoming availability of SQL Server 2005 Beta 2.