SQL Server 2008 was released to manufacturing yesterday (and simultaneously to the Web, without a hitch). This works out well, as the SQL 2008 update to my MS Press book on SQL Server 2005 is almost done! The book, now under the leadership of Lenni Lobel, should be out in October. It will be even better than the last one, trust me.
With SQL Server 2008 ships Service Pack 1 to the .NET Framework 3.5. Its companion, SP1 to Visual Studio 2008, should be shipping very, very, soon.
“So what?” you might say. “It’s just a service pack.” Well, not really. This service pack is also a roll up of a collection of technologies, many of them data-related, that had been previously released as stand-alone Betas, Community Technology Previews and “futures” releases. These include the ADO.NET Entity Framework (an Object Relational Mapping —ORM— framework), ADO.NET Data Services (formerly project “Astoria” — which allows you to create RESTful Web services around your data, very easily) and ASP.NET Dynamic Data (which creates entire functional data bound Web sites, simply by inspecting your data model). And with these technologies, will come an added emphasis on LINQ To SQL (another ORM framework), which was only recently released itself, in November.
“And that’s not all.” With SQL Server 2008 comes a new version of SQL Server Compact, as well as the Sync Framework and Sync Services for ADO.NET. And don’t forget SQL Server Data Services, a cloud-based data service from Microsoft, currently in private Beta.
Is 2008 the year of the database? Is Microsoft trying to compete for attention with the Beijing Olympics? (I doubt that, given that NBC is using Silverlight to show every single Beijing event live and on demand.) Are people at Microsoft so bored that they had nothing better to do than come out with five different data tools and a new release of their flagship database?
Nope. Let go of your conspiracy theories. Here’s an anecdote that might shed light: when I started writing for Visual Basic Programmer’s Journal (now Visual Studio Magazine) 14 years ago, I focused on database topics. When I was offered a regular spot, it was to share the Database Design column with Roger Jennings. It’s what I wanted; it’s what I fought for. Because back then, business software development was all about database management and access. And today’s no different in that respect.
But what is different is that we have AJAX, Rich Internet Applications, Web services, cloud computing, smart phone applications, and a strong desire to automate the production of code that is common to a critical mass of applications. That’s what all these new tools are about: addressing the new platforms and reducing menial coding tasks on any and all of them. And with a new version of SQL Server ready to tie it all together.
Will all these tools survive? Maybe not, but I think most of them will, and they’ll integrate more and more. Some of the products are ground breaking, others represent Microsoft’s adoption (and adaptation) of tools that have abounded in the third party and open source spaces for a while. Some are must-haves, others need to be treated more skeptically. But all of them will strengthen the .NET platform, because active enhancement is a software platform’s lifeblood. As in 2001 when .NET was still in Beta, developers should take advantage of the slower economy and study this new stuff hard. When things turn up again, they’ll be ready, and customers are going to be happy.