The new database software, called SQL Server 2000, is part of Microsoft's goal of making its Windows 2000 operating system more attractive to businesses that need to create e-commerce Web sites.
The database, which stores and manages Web content and other information, is part of a family of Web development software that the company plans to ship this year.
The second test version of SQL Server 2000 gives Microsoft's software developers their first look at the technology. Microsoft expects about 200,000 of its customers worldwide to test the product before the final version is released this summer. An initial test version was released last fall but was limited to several hundred Microsoft customers and partners.
Microsoft executives are touting the new database as powerful and reliable enough for large businesses and e-commerce Web sites and hopes it can better compete against rival offerings. Microsoft currently ranks fourth in total database sales, behind Oracle, IBM and Informix, according to analyst firm International Data Corp.
Barry Goffe, Microsoft's lead product manager for SQL Server, says the new SQL Server database offers more Web support, more security and improved analysis for business information.
As previously reported, SQL Server 2000 will offer a feature called "partitioning," which gives businesses the ability to divide the workload across different high-end server computers.
It will also support Extensible Markup Language (XML), a Web standard that makes it simpler and cheaper for businesses to exchange data.
Goffe said improvements to its "online analytical processing" (OLAP) technology will let companies view simple reports over the Web, such as how products are selling in a particular region or on a given date.
The software giant has also built in "data mining" capabilities, technology that builds complex reports by examining business information and seeking patterns and trends, such as an online buyers' preferences, Goffe said.
Microsoft said subscribers to the Microsoft Developer Network will automatically receive a copy of the test version of SQL Server 2000.