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Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to support SQL Server 2008 and keep the momentum going for its latest enhanced database offering. On September 29, the company will launch the SQL Server 2008 Experience, a year-long series of in-person events designed to introduce “350,000+ customers, partners and community members” to the new features and benefits of its database offering.

Additionally, Microsoft is touting the merits of SQL Server 2008 on a new Website: And it also just released the results of the new Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC) performance benchmark tests for Microsoft SQL Server 2008. The TPC ranked Microsoft SQL Server 2008 #1 on price/performance on servers using Intel’s new Dunnington x64 processors, and as the top performance leader using IBM’s new System x3950 M2 server.

There’s no doubt that SQL Server 2008 boasts greatly improved features, functions, scalability, security, management and reliability compared to the 2005 version, and a more powerful, robust and manageable SQL Server 2008 is a must for Microsoft. The company is going head to head with industry powerhouses including IBM’s DB2 and Oracle’s 11g database running on Linux. So 2009 is shaping up to be an extremely competitive and crucial year for database vendors and their respective customers.

At this point, Microsoft is a strong number three behind Oracle and IBM in the database arena, according to both Gartner Group and IDC. The latest statistics show Oracle with approximately 42% market share; IBM second with about 21% and Microsoft with an estimated 19% of the database market. The financial stakes are also high: Oracle’s database revenue is well over $7 billion; IBM realizes close to $3.5 billion from database sales and Microsoft SQL Server generates close to $3 billion in annual sales.

In order to retain its existing installed base and increase its presence – particularly among SMBs and large enterprises, Microsoft must hit the ground running with SQL Server 2008. There is no margin for error from either a technical or a marketing standpoint. Hence, Microsoft is marshalling all its forces.

SQL Server 2008 incorporates a slew of new management capabilities such as: policy management; configuration servers; data collector/management warehouse and a multiple server query capability. Such features are crucial for database administrators, particularly those in large enterprises who are charged with overseeing complex and geographically dispersed database environments that may include hundreds or thousands of physical and virtual servers encompassing tens of thousands of databases.

The SQL Server 2008 Policy Management feature enables database administrators to create and execute configuration policies against one or more servers while the Data Collector facility obviates the need for managers to create custom solutions to cull data from their database server environments.

Data Collector lets administrators utilize the SQL Server Agent and SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) to create a framework that collects and stores data while delivering a detailed history of error handling, auditing, and collection.

Just as important as SQL Server 2008’s new management functions are the accompanying documentation and training that Microsoft is making available for the database platform via its Website, TechNet and its Software Assurance maintenance and upgrade program. Vendor rivalries aside, the chief impediments to users upgrading to any new software platform are the cost and complexity of the migration. These factors are even more crucial when weighed against the cost constraints of the current economic downturn. Microsoft’s TechNet provides SQL Server 2008 customers with ample, “at-your-fingertips” documentation and troubleshooting tips as they prepare to upgrade.

In addition, customers who have purchased Microsoft’s Software Assurance will be able to get significant discounts on training as well as access to Elearning tools. The combination of TechNet and Software Assurance can save IT departments and the corporation untold thousands to millions in capital and operational expenditures and cut upgrade time by 25% to 65% depending on the size and scope of the deployment. And in the event that any significant bugs or performance glitches arise, Microsoft must move quickly and decisively to publicly address the problems and issue the necessary patches without dissembling or temporizing.

Overall, Microsoft has assembled all of the necessary technology and business components to make SQL Server 2008 a winner. The latest Microsoft database has the performance, scalability and management to make the upgrade path easy. The excellent documentation and technical support offered by TechNet is also a plus. Companies worried about budgetary constraints (and who isn’t?) will also find monetary relief from the inherent value of the myriad Software Assurance benefits.