November 16, 2005 10:44 AM PST

Microsoft: No more five-year waits for SQL Server

Microsoft's SQL Server development team learned a hard lesson from its work on SQL Server 2005: Customers do not want to wait five years for an upgrade.

From now on, a new development regime called the Software Reengineering Initiative will ensure that releases ship every two years whether new features are ready or not, said Mark Souza, who heads the SRI team.

For many customers who signed up for Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing model in the summer of 2002, the wait for SQL Server 2005 has been particularly painful. One of the touted benefits of Software Assurance was that the cost of upgrades would be covered, but as some analysts pointed out at the time, this deal carried a potential sting for customers.

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Three years later, that warning hit home when, at the end of the first Software Assurance term, there was still no sight of an upgrade to either Exchange or SQL Server.

With SQL Server 2005 having finally launched earlier this month, Microsoft says it has learned its lesson. "We are taking care of our customers, one by one, who were expecting an earlier release," said Souza, speaking to ZDNet UK at Microsoft's IT Forum event in Barcelona on Tuesday. "We learned a lot, but one thing you have to remember is that it is about more than just upgrades--it is about maintenance, too."

The big lesson that the development team learned, Souza said, was to change the engineering processes to ensure a two-year release cycle.

"SQL Server will be on a two-year release train. If your feature is not done, you catch the next train. With SQL Server 2005, we had a lot of features 80 percent done, but because of the way we engineered the product, we could not just yank them out," he said.

Perhaps the biggest change brought about by SRI lies in the testing process. "The way it worked before was that individual groups would develop and test a feature, and then we had to test all the other components that used that feature," Souza said.

One example of this is database mirroring, which was left out of the first release of SQL Server 2005, but is now due to ship "sometime between the first and second quarters of 2006," Souza said. "We built it, but then we had to make sure it worked with every single component. The testing process just blew up as we added more features. And SQL Server 2005 has more features than any previous release, so the testing matrix was bigger than ever," he said.

SRI means changing the way developers work on a project. "You work on one team but work with a feature team until you complete that feature. So it does mean we can't work on as many features, but when they are done, they are done. This also makes it easier to know whether that feature will get into a particular release or not," Souza added.

The result should be an end to the idea of the big release. "Up front, we will have themes for a particular release, such as zero admin costs," Souza said. "We will then list everything we want to do, and tick off as many items on that list as possible before the deadline."

The idea, which has been pioneered in the SQL Server group and is drawing interest from other product groups within Microsoft, is a direct result of the five-year wait for the latest SQL Server.

"Oracle shipped twice in last five years, as did IBM. But if you look at their release, they are small themes, and customers seem to adapt to that well," Souza said.

Matt Loney of ZDNet UK reported from London.

4 comments

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Good
5 years is really too long to wait in terms of releasing a product. They should have released something in 2003 with the new stuff except for CLR integration and other stuff. But then again DDL triggers etc etc wouldn't make it to that release. Right now there is just so much new stuff. If there was an intermediate release you would have an easier time to migrate

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://sqlservercode.blogspot.com/" target="_newWindow">http://sqlservercode.blogspot.com/</a>
Posted by SqlserverCode (165 comments )
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Ship it, ready or not?
"The Software Reengineering Initiative will ensure that releases ship every two years whether new features are ready or not."

They're going to ship you *something*, whether it's ready or not. That's so Microsoft, and so sad.
Posted by CA1900 (332 comments )
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Comprehension problem
G Miller said "They're going to ship you *something*, whether it's ready or not."

The whole article is about how the features are going to be ready to ship or they miss that release. That's a far cry from the implication that they'll ship something that's not ready. They only way you could have missed that was by being unable to comprehend english.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Very sad indeed
But on the other hand at least you don't have to listen to MS lies about how they are not overcharging you for underfeatured software. Now you know it is overpriced AND under-featured.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
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