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Microsoft plans high-end SQL

The company plans to test a new enterprise version of its SQL Server database to support clustered servers and large databases.

NEW ORLEANS--Microsoft plans to start testing a new high-end version of its SQL Server database by the end of the month that will add support for clustered servers and very large databases.

A version of SQL Server 7.0 Enterprise Edition will be included as part of a third and final beta test release of the database, said Doug Leland, a product manager at Microsoft.

The final beta release CD-ROM will also include feature-complete versions of SQL Server standard edition, a client version of SQL Server for Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT Workstation, and Plato, Microsoft's new online analytical processing (OLAP) server.

Microsoft introduced an enterprise version of its current SQL Server 6.5 database last December. The new SQL Server 7.0 enterprise version, expected to ship in the second half of the year, includes all of the new features slated for SQL Server 7.0, extends the database's support for clustered systems, and adds new management tools.

The planned Enterprise Edition is targeted at servers that support four or more processors, as does the current Enterprise Edition of SQL Server, Leland said.

The high-end database is key to allowing Microsoft to broaden its attack on the data warehousing and large database markets. It also gives the company a more robust database to compete with software from Oracle, IBM, Informix Software and other database makers.

Although Leland said the feature list for the enterprise edition has not been finalized, he did say the database is targeted at the very high end of the database spectrum. "With SQL Server 7.0, we expect to see data warehouses getting into the terabyte range."

It also gives the company a more enterprise-scale database on which to host business applications from SAP and Baan.

Version 7.0 of SQL Server supports a feature called row-level locking for the first time. The feature is intended to attract business application software makers, like SAP, that have designed their software to use row-level locking.

In addition to the clustering support, the final beta test version of SQL Server 7.0 will also add additional management tools, more refinement in the database engine, and some additional performance tuning, Leland said.

SQL Server 7.0 includes a long list of new features. For instance, Microsoft will revamp SQL Server's current replication tools to include support for multimaster replication, also known as symmetric replication, which allows two sites to maintain and update separate copies of the same database while the replication software keeps both copies in sync. Also new will be support for disconnected users, so mobile users on laptops can receive database updates on the road via a dial-up connection.

All versions of SQL Server 7.0 are expected to ship in the second half of this year. The database will not require Windows NT 5.0, expected to debut late this year or early next year.

Leland said Microsoft will most likely ship a point release of SQL Server next year to add support for NT 5.0's Active Directory and other new technology.