Microsoft scales out SQL Server 2008, wants to 'democratize BI'

Plans to take its 2008 Server database to the large data warehousing market by 2010

SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp. today said it will take its SQL Server 2008 database into the large data warehousing market by 2010 as it integrates technology from recently acquired DATAllegro Inc.

Microsoft plans to release a version of SQL Server 2008, code-named Kilimanjaro, that will use technology from the data warehousing appliance vendor it bought over the summer to build massively parallel systems that can scale out into the "hundreds of terabytes," said Ted Kummert, corporate vice president for data and storage at Microsoft.

Hardware vendors such as Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Unisys and Bull, which were previously working with DATAllegro, will build data warehousing appliances, code-named Madison, based on the combined SQL Server/DATAllegro technology.

Those appliances will be available by the first half of 2010, though a community technology preview version of Madison should be available within 12 months, Kummert said.

At its second business intelligence conference in Seattle, Microsoft also said it wants to "democratize" business intelligence and make it available to more employees inside a company by bolstering its self-service analysis features in a project code-named Gemini.

Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's business division, said that tools such as Microsoft Office, particularly Excel, along with SharePoint and PerformancePoint, provide a complete stack that complements SQL Server and is superior to other vendors' "cobbled-together, disparate solutions."

"Other companies talk about features that are like Excel; we talk about Excel," he said in a keynote speech at the conference, which was attended by 3,000.

These "people-ready" BI features will also be available in the next release.

Elop also said that companies using Microsoft's stack will find it much cheaper and easier to implement. "Some vendors have made the decision during these hard economic times to start cranking up prices," he said. "Well, doggone it, there's something wrong with that."

Officially released in August, SQL Server 2008 has been deployed by 80 companies, said Tom Casey, Microsoft general manager for SQL Server business intelligence, during a presentation. The free version has been downloaded 500,000 times, he said.

SQL Server, along with Oracle Database, has long been dogged by accusations that its technology was unsuitable for users interested in "scaling out" their systems using lower-cost PC servers hooked up in massively parallel networks.

But during the keynote, Microsoft demonstrated a 150TB database with 1 trillion rows of data using 24 separate instances of SQL Server 2008 that is a "true MPP system," according to Jesse Fountain, a principal group manager.

"This is a true shared-nothing architecture with no single point of failure," Fountain said.

Alluding to Oracle's recently announced high-end "data warehouse in a rack," the Database Machine, Kummert said, "Rarely do I ever hear customers say they want a one-size-fits-all solution that is new and different to manage."

By working with multiple vendors, Microsoft will be able to provide a "matched set of hardware and software ... that gives you the power of choice," Kummert said.

One of the traditional leaders in large data warehousing, Teradata Inc., claimed that Microsoft's moves are no threat.

"It's not the amount of data that's important. It is the ability to manage large volumes of data, concurrent queries, hundreds and thousands of users, multiple applications, and support of both batch and real-time loading. And the hard part is to do all of this on a single enterprise data warehouse," said Randy Lea, vice president of product and services at Teradata, in an e-mail. "Teradata stands as the proven, recognized leader in enterprise data warehousing and we don't anticipate that Microsoft's announcement will enable them to be a competitor in this enterprise space."

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