Microsoft to license test software for real-world use

Says early versions of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 database are solid enough to run business applications.

Microsoft on Monday released test versions of its forthcoming development tools and database that, according to the company, are already suitable for running production business applications.

Microsoft customers who subscribe to the Microsoft Development Network can access the second beta of the Visual Studio 2005 and the April "community technology preview" of SQL Server 2005. Both products are due for completion in the second half of the year and will be released in tandem.

The preview version of the database will include all planned features for SQL Server 2005. Rather than have a third beta program as originally planned, Microsoft will release updates every six to eight weeks until the product is finished, said Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server.

For both the SQL server and Visual Studio betas, Microsoft will offer customers the option to sign a "GoLive" license, which will allow them to deploy production systems on the beta software. Typically, beta software agreements do not allow customers to run applications because Microsoft does not officially offer support.

Because of the change in the license and the quality of the code, Microsoft expects 50,000 customers to move production applications onto the beta versions of Visual Studio 2005 and the .Net Framework, the software needed to run applications.

"This is a first look at how this 2005 wave of products will function," said John Montgomery, director of product management at the company's developer division.

Both products have experienced delays. In particular, SQL Server has not had a major update in five years, a gap the company would like to cut down for the next major release, Rizzo said.

Rizzo said no customers have said they would use other databases because of the delays. "Obviously a lot of customers are anxiously awaiting SQL server 2005. There's a lot in there to chew on," he said.

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