SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 7, 2005 – Each of the products Microsoft is launching today – Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006 – offers customers new or enhanced capabilities for increased usability, performance and productivity. Together, the new products also provide a powerful, integrated development platform for mission-critical applications, which draws on the core functionality of all three.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the three new products today in his keynote speech at a launch event in San Francisco. Today’s event also marked the beginning of a global product tour that will visit 200 cities in 90 countries over the next two months. The “Ready for Launch Tour 2005” will feature in-depth workshops to help Microsoft customers take full advantage of the company’s core application platform and the products that support it.
Used in combination, SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006 increase business value for enterprise customers by enabling greater individual productivity as well as closer collaboration and better alignment among different teams and professional roles throughout the organization. To cater to the diverse needs of the expert roles involved in the delivery of business value, Microsoft worked closely with the end-user community and enterprise business decision makers. The result? Substantial improvements over previous versions and better support for a broader set of end-user roles spanning from software developers, IT professionals, system architects, software testers, business decision makers, other business users and more.
A central example of the multiple roles benefiting from the new releases is the business decision maker, who gains additional functionality from each of the three products. SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006 all offer the business decision maker not only additional insight into the workings of the business, but also increased opportunities to fine tune key processes. The business intelligence functionality in SQL Server 2005 offers better and faster access to data for making decisions, while BizTalk Server 2006 enables decision makers to refine business processes. By enabling access to information in real time through Microsoft Office, BizTalk Server 2006 lets business users initiate business process designs and actively analyze and optimize them all within a familiar environment, such as Microsoft Office Excel and Visio. In addition, with Visual Studio Team System, business decision makers will be able to manage the constraints of the software development process more effectively, minimizing project risks and creating business opportunity.
SQL Server 2005: Managing and Analyzing Data
SQL Server 2005 is a collection of components and capabilities that allow organizations to better manage and analyze their data. Along with being a great relational database, SQL Server 2005 also includes many enterprise data management and business intelligence functions, such as reporting, business analytics, and data integration, plus tools to help developers organize data-driven solutions faster.
“IT professionals, developers, and business decision makers all depend on databases for different reasons, and SQL Server 2005 offers exceptional support for people in all of these roles,” says Francois Ajenstat, SQL Marketing group product manager at Microsoft.
IT Professionals and Database Administrators
IT professionals, including database administrators, have to configure the database, make sure it is available at all times, and ensure that it is integrated with the rest of the organization’s IT environment and supporting the business solutions that depend on it. Security, performance and high availability are the key issues for IT professionals.
SQL Server 2005 provides a platform that IT professionals can trust to support and run their mission-critical systems. To ensure high availability, Microsoft gave SQL Server 2005 features such as Database Mirroring and Failover Clustering. If something happens to cause a server to fail over to a backup server, users will still be able to query the database while the IT professionals deal with the issue and bring the first server back up. Another feature called Database Snapshots enables administrators to take a quick snapshot of the database environment and make changes without worrying about losing data. If there is a problem, the administrator can always bring the snapshot back online in a matter of seconds rather than having to do a full backup.
Standard operations such as backups and system restore used to require a database to be turned off. Online Load is a feature of SQL Server 2005 that enables IT professionals to perform those operations without shutting down the database.
An integrated management tool called SQL Server Management Studio provides a centralized management environment for all SQL Server services. Administrators don’t have to go to two or three different tools to manage the various aspects of SQL Server; that is now built in and integrated through this new tool.
Other tools, such as the Database Tuning Advisor and the SQL Server Profiler, provide administrators with additional facilities to ensure that system performance is optimal, and that if errors occur they can quickly diagnose the problem and get the system back on track. With the Database Tuning Advisor, for example, administrators can look at their database configuration, run some queries, and the tool will provide recommendations on how to improve performance.
Security is another key issue for people who rely on databases. SQL Server 2005, like many other Microsoft products, is now secure by design and secure by default. During development, SQL Server 2005 went through rigorous security reviews and checkpoints to ensure a high level of security would be built into the technology. When a customer installs SQL Server 2005, most features are turned off to help reduce the potential attack surface in the software. Also, by turning on only the features they need, customers guarantee that their configuration will be unlike most other databases, which reduces the chance for a successful widespread hacker attack.
High availability, performance and security are also important to business decision makers, who rely on the business information supplied by SQL Server 2005 to help them make informed and strategic decisions. They want to know that they can store sensitive information in the database securely and retrieve it whenever they need it.
Business Decision Makers
SQL Server 2005 provides business intelligence functionality so that business decision makers can make better, faster, and more relevant decisions based on data. For data to be helpful, a business decision maker must be able to view current data whenever the need arises, and to do so in the appropriate context of time, products, and geography.
“Traditionally, you had to call the IT department and ask for a report to be generated,” Ajenstat says. “IT would put the request in their queue, and a week later you would get your report. If there were any questions about the data, that was another week. By the time you actually got the final answer to your question, the business had moved on, and the competition had moved in.”
Report Builder, a new feature in SQL Server 2005, enables business decision makers and other business end users to create their own reports, even if they know nothing about the database. They can also employ the Analysis Services component, which provides information in a format that makes sense to them, according to relevant business dimensions and business measures. They can create Key Performance Indicators, which enables them to monitor key metrics such as growth, revenue targets, or current values, status and trends, and to represent that information visually.
Finally, in most organizations the data a business user needs to make a decision comes from multiple disparate systems. They may have data coming in from their CRM system, their ERP system, customers and suppliers, and a variety of different Web sites. To bring all of that together into one complete version of the truth, the Integration Services component in SQL Server 2005 provides the ability to take that data, cleanse it, enhance it, and then load it into the appropriate format.
“SQL Server 2005 enables business users to get the information they need in a matter of seconds, rather than minutes, hours or days,” Ajenstat says. “They can get a comprehensive view of their business rather than an isolated view, and the information can be brought together in one place and in the context and format they prefer.”
Visual Studio 2005: Individual and Team Productivity
Visual Studio 2005 offers powerful and flexible development tools for professional developers of Windows and Web applications, whether they work independently or as part of a development team. Visual Studio 2005 also offers new opportunities for novice developers, such as students or hobbyists.
Visual Studio 2005 is not single product, but a collection of different tools geared to the needs of different types of users. Five Express versions for novice developers cover different languages and types of development: C#, Visual Basic, C++, J# and Visual Web Development. Visual Studio Standard Edition is the entry-level version for professional developers. It unites all of the features and functionality in the five Express versions while providing an additional focus on client and server development, supporting the development of both local and remote applications.
There are two versions for more proficient professional developers who work independently: Visual Studio Professional, for Windows and Web development, and Visual Studio Tools for Microsoft Office. Finally, the Visual Studio Team System includes three versions of Visual Studio that support different roles on development teams within enterprise organizations: Visual Studio Team Architect Edition; Visual Studio Team Developer Edition, and Visual Studio Team Test Edition.
Professional Windows Developers
For developers using Windows, one problem Microsoft wanted to solve with Visual Studio 2005 was to help them create Windows-based applications that would be easier for IT professionals to install and maintain. Click Once is a new feature that enables developers to combine the simplicity of Web deployment and Web maintenance with the power of Windows application development.
When a developer uses the Click Once feature, Visual Studio 2005 collects all of the files and dependencies that make up the application and creates a package that users can install it just as they would a Web application. When users enter the correct URL in their browser, the application will be downloaded. If they return to that URL in the future, their system will automatically download updates or new versions of the applications.
Visual Studio 2005 also takes advantage of integration with other Microsoft products, which makes developers’ jobs easier and often results in applications that provide a better user experience. That integration begins with SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk 2006.
One of the best integration features for developers in the three new products is that Microsoft built the common language runtime (CLR) into both SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk 2006. That means developers can now use common languages such as C# and Visual Basic to write procedures for either product, publish them directly into SQL Server or BizTalk Server, and have them run there as native functions.
Because of the deep integration of the Microsoft application platform, developers also can easily create data-driven applications using functionality from the SQL Server 2005 database, and call on business intelligence, reporting services, and business process information from both SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk 2006 to create custom applications that enable end users to view, analyze and manage information faster and more easily.
SQL Server 2005 has a new capability called SQL Reporting Services. When SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 are installed together, an integrated report writer surfaces inside Visual Studio. Developers working in Visual Studio can then define the layout of a report in terms of what information they want presented, such as which information to group into totals or subtotals.
Being able to do this work directly in Visual Studio provides a familiar experience for developers, which makes their job much easier. For example, they can drag and drop controls onto the form surface, and double click on those controls to define the code that needs to be executed when the report is run.
Like SQL Server 2005, BizTalk Server 2006 also integrates directly with the Visual Studio IDE. One role of BizTalk is to allow developers to orchestrate the flow of certain processes inside their organization. When BizTalk Server 2006 and Visual Studio 2005 are both installed, a Visual Orchestration Designer surfaces in Visual Studio, which enables developers to visually model how transactions are to flow and which transactions must occur before others can begin, all without leaving the Visual Studio environment.
“Developers can visually design process orchestrations and write the code that must execute when the orchestrations occur,” Flores says. “It is only through this tight visual integration that developers can easily create these traditionally very complex solutions.”
Professional Web Developers
For Web developers, Microsoft wanted to make it possible for them to create great Web solutions in as little time as possible. With that goal in mind, Microsoft created new infrastructure within Visual Studio 2005 that provides some of the same benefits that developers who use Windows get by building on top of Microsoft Office.
The company discovered that Web developers spent a lot of their time working on “plumbing” issues, complex but increasingly important features such as site membership, which enables a Web site to provide a unique experience for each user.
“When people visit many shopping sites, the site welcomes them back by name, knows their shopping history and preferences, makes suggestions for other items they might like to purchase, and directs them to information they may find interesting,” Flores says. “It takes a lot of customized code to make that happen.”
Many businesses strive for those same types of features in their Web applications, so Microsoft built that kind of functionality directly into Visual Studio 2005. When developers need to create those features, Visual Studio automatically knows how to do it for them.
As a result of the different “plumbing” issues Microsoft addressed in Visual Studio 2005 – from controls for group policies to the built-in security subsystem – Flores estimates that developers can expect to write between 50 percent and 70 percent less custom code than they were writing with earlier versions of Visual Studio.
Another component of Visual Studio 2005 is a small Web server that developers can run on their desktop computers to test Web applications before they go live. This is especially useful for Web developers who are not running Internet Information Services, Microsoft’s fast, scalable Web server.
SQL Server 2005 has improved data caching capabilities, which is extremely important in Web developing. Any developer who is building Web sites with Visual Studio can now take advantage of the ability of SQL Server to know when to go back to the database to retrieve data. This functionality, called intelligent data caching, is automatically built into Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005. To use it, developers only have to set a few properties; they don’t have to write any new code.
Business Decision Makers
The Visual Studio Team System – which includes Team Architect Edition, Team Software Developer Edition, and Team Test Edition – provides tools that promote collaboration and integration throughout the enterprise. These three editions of Visual Studio 2005, especially when combined with the Team Foundation Server, enable the Microsoft application platform to support business users in a wider range of roles, from architect to project manager to software tester. The Visual Studio Team System also enables the software development team and IT professionals to do a better job of performing their work and managing their responsibilities in conjunction with business imperatives such as costs, risk, opportunity and time to market.
Perhaps most importantly for the needs of the business decision maker, the Visual Studio Team System allows companies to more effectively balance software project constraints. In the face of constant change, software development teams are continually managing tradeoffs in terms of project scope, time required, and code quality. This reduces the risk of software development efforts and drives business opportunity for customers that have invested in the .NET Framework. Overall, the integration of Visual Studio Team System enables teams to come together and develop software in a highly collaborative manner while increasing productivity, improving predictability, and reducing complexity.
Architects, Project Managers and Software Testers
The Visual Studio Team System lifecycle tools environment simplifies the authoring and automation of key process steps so that the expert roles involved in the development of software have the right visibility into the key activities they must collaborate on and control. With the move to more role-specific software, Microsoft is able to better meet the unique requirements of particular audiences and enable companies to handle the increasing complexity of the software development lifecycle.
For architects, the Visual Studio Team System focuses on four models:
Application Designer – Provides a drag and drop surface to model Web applications, internal and external Web services, Office applications, and Windows applications such as smart clients. The interconnections between all of these enable users to connect data sets to databases and to understand how data will flow.
Logical Datacenter Designer – Takes a logical view of the current physical datacenter, but doesn’t represent every server in the datacenter. It represents only the operating system tier, the application tier, and the data tier. What interests an architect is knowing how the application or database infrastructure is set up. Visual Studio captures all of the constraints around that, how service packs are running, whether the system is using cookies, what type of SQL Server integration is at work, etc. Anything architects configure within Internet Information Services or the operating system, they can represent within that environment.
Deployment Designer – Takes Application Designer and Logical Datacenter Designer, merges those two models together, and compares all of those settings. Determines needs based on what is included. Creates deployment reports for IT that enables IT Pros to configure things to support the new application, or shows developers what they need to change about the application to make it compatible with the environment. By getting this information at the start of the process, instead of midway through development, any necessary changes can be made before a problem develops.
System Designer – Provides a component view of applications. As applications get larger and start integrating Web services, architects more and more often want to work on just a small part of an application. By componentizing the architectural view of the application, the architect is able to work exclusively on the portion that needs attention.
Visual Studio 2005 also provides great support for software testers. For the first time, Microsoft has provided a core set of testing tools in Visual Studio. Giving testers the same tools as developers and architects reduces miscommunication and increases productivity. With Visual Studio 2005, software testers can run unit tests ad hoc or as part of a build process, and the extensive code base in Visual Studio enables testers to analyze code and catch errors much earlier. Testers can also do load testing using Visual Studio 2005.
Historically, load testing has been expensive and hard to do. With Visual Studio 2005, testers can use local machines for load testing, store information for comparison, and report test results. Also, because Microsoft licensing is per server instead of per user, if a tester has a server that can support 500 users then he or she can load test to that level without the expense of additional licenses.
Project managers can use capabilities in Visual Studio 2005 to track projects they are working on. Combining Visual Studio 2005 with Team Foundation Server Reporting Engine, project managers can capture information and create reports to monitor the progress of their projects, assign new work, and assess how much work remains to be done.
For the very first time, with the release of Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft is offering a new set of easy-to-use tools designed specifically for novice developers, such as students, hobbyists, and technology enthusiasts. Each of the Visual Studio Express products is a complete design, develop and debug environment for either a Windows or Web application.
“The Visual Studio Express editions are about the joy of programming and the interesting things that people can do at home or on the Web if they have the right tools,” Flores says. “These tools are for people who are more interested in the end result than the process.”
Microsoft also developed a series of Starter Kits to help novices take advantage of the power and flexibility of Visual Studio 2005 without becoming serious developers.
Starter Kits are complete, end-to-end, ready-to-run sample applications that people can either run as they come or customize. There are Starter Kits that enable people to develop and manage personal Web sites, manage and share information about clubs, develop a time tracking and scheduling program for a family or small business, etc.
BizTalk Server 2006: Managing Business Processes in Real Time
BizTalk Server 2006 empowers business users with enhanced management and deployment capabilities, a comprehensive approach to integration, and the ability for users to proactively monitor and manage business processes.
Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), first introduced in BizTalk Server 2004, has been significantly enhanced in BizTalk Server 2006. BAM provides visibility on progress against key performance indicators and events that are happening within processes and can surface them into a variety of user interfaces, including Excel spreadsheets or a pre-built portal in BizTalk Server 2006. Additionally, BizTalk Server 2006 provides tools for proactive alerting through a variety of mechanisms including SQL Server’s Notification Services allowing business users or process owners to receive alerts on the health and status of their business processes.
“Today businesses compete on the flexibility of their key business processes. For example, if shipping goods from Taiwan is central to your business, you need to know if a storm in the area is halting shipments and then be able to quickly alter the business processes in order to ship those goods from a different location,” says David Beauparlant, senior product manager, BPI Marketing at Microsoft. “It is really all about process awareness and making sure the business users have tools to act on changing business dynamics.”
Despite significant advancements in enterprise computing, many businesses still have large numbers of manual steps within their core business processes. A key aspect of BizTalk Server is its ability to automate these manual business processes. To do this, BizTalk Server manages the communications and processes between disparate technology systems and applications.
For BizTalk 2006, Microsoft acquired nine new application adapters to facilitate increased integration and collaboration, including adapters for Oracle, Siebel, Peoplesoft and J.D. Edwards applications. These new application adapters will be included at no charge in BizTalk Server 2006 and will join several other adapters developed by Microsoft, ensuring customers have a complete integration solution out of the box.