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Update: Yukon, Whidbey Delayed Until 2005

Microsoft officials said on Wednesday that the next version of SQL Server, code-named "Yukon," and the next version of Visual Studio, code-named "Whidbey," will be delayed until the first half of 2005.

The company also confirmed that the official names of the products will be SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 and that a Beta 3 testing phase has been added to the SQL Server 2005 release schedule.

"Microsoft made the decision to delay the delivery of these products to ensure that they meet the high quality requirements of our customers," Microsoft said in a statement.

Yukon is major release of the SQL Server database, more on par with the blockbuster SQL Server 7.0 release than the SQL Server 2000 release. It will include an architectural overhaul of its business intelligence-related Analysis Services, native support for XML, far greater integration with .NET, greatly enhanced ETL functionality and scalability improvements.

The release of Yukon has already been delayed several times. Originally it was planned for release sometime in 2003. That got pushed back into the first half of 2004, then the second half of 2004 and now into the first half of 2005. The delays mean SQL Server 2000 will be about four-and-a-half-years old when Yukon ships.

Whidbey is a version of the Visual Studio .NET developer toolset that is being specifically released to take advantage of the many fundamental changes in the Yukon database.

Reasons for the Latest Delay

The SQL Server 2005 project has lived through interesting times at Microsoft. Since the release of SQL Server 2000 in October 2000, Microsoft launched its Trustworthy Computing security review of all code in the development pipeline, the SQL Server platform suffered a serious security problem with the Slammer worm, and the database team has had to align its efforts with the Windows "Longhorn" operating system team and with the Visual Studio .NET team. Longhorn is supposed to have a new storage system that borrows some technologies from Yukon.

The latest delay, says Tom Rizzo, director of SQL Server product management, stems from a desire to make sure the platform is properly tested rather than from some technical or other hurdle.

"We'll take extra time to make sure that the technology is baked and tested and at the quality assurance that we want it to be. The hard part is not developing the technology, it's the extra time to test it," Rizzo says.

Rizzo contends that customers want the database tested properly more than they want it delivered quickly. "We don't want to be like Sybase," Rizzo says. "Sybase released a horrible version back in the 90s and they've fallen off the map in the database space."

New Beta Schedule

A widespread public beta that was planned for mid-2003 is now set for some time in the middle of this year. But Microsoft has now added a Beta 3 testing phase to start at the end of 2004 to the product schedule as well. A limited set of customers, known as Joint Development Program customers, will run the Beta 3 code in production and must sign off on it before Microsoft ships SQL Server 2005.

"[The Beta 3 cycle] is one of the reasons why we're delivering it in the first half of 2005," Rizzo said. "We said 'Beta 2 [will be] great quality, but we probably need more bake time.' We want to run stress tests and do all the hard things against Beta 2.'"

'RTM in the first half'

Rizzo was also careful to promise only that SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 would be released to manufacturing in the first half, not that they would be generally available. "We will RTM it in the first half of 2005," Rizzo said.

RTM generally comes a month to two months before a product is generally available. The choice of the RTM term means Microsoft has some limited wiggle room to ship the database early in the second half of the year under the new timetable.

Licensing Pressure

With well over four years between SQL Server releases, Microsoft faces potential problems from customers who have signed up for Software Assurance under Licensing 6.0. The three-year licensing deals involve paying a premium that includes upgrade rights, but most of the agreements will have both been entered and expired during SQL Server 2000's lifespan.

Rizzo disputed that Software Assurance is about having upgrade rights, citing free telephone and online support, a closer relationship with Microsoft and other factors as key elements of Software Assurance. "We haven't found customers who have brought it up," Rizzo says. "That's our intent to make sure that Software Assurance is more than just a product upgrade."

Support Deadline Extension on Tap?

Meanwhile, the new release schedule for SQL Server 2005 will most likely lead to a new support deadline for SQL Server 2000. That database is set to have mainstream support retired at the end of 2005. That would be an extremely short window for SQL Server 2000 customers to get critical business applications onto a SQL Server 2005 database technology that has been on the market for six months or less.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.