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Microsoft releases SQL Server 2005 beta

A widely available test version of Microsoft's database will support AMD's Opteron processor.

Microsoft began a wide beta testing program of its forthcoming SQL Server 2005 database on Monday, a much anticipated--and delayed--product central to the company's server software line.

The latest update of the database, which is code-named Yukon, introduces support for AMD's Opteron processor, which can run 32-bit and 64-bit Windows applications, Microsoft said. SQL Server 2005 beta 2 also adds a number of features for creating business reports and the ability to encrypt data within the database.

The second beta was slated to be available for download later Monday from Microsoft's developer site. While the first beta of SQL Server 2005 was limited to about 3,000 official testers, the second will be made available to about half a million programmers and SQL Server customers, the company said.

A third beta program is planned for the second half of this year and the final product is expected to be completed in the first half of next year. Microsoft earlier this year delayed the delivery of SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005, a programming tool tuned specifically to work with SQL Server 2005. Microsoft had expected to complete both products by the end of this year.

Microsoft said the second beta of SQL Server 2005 will also introduce a revamped management tool called Management Studio, which combines the capabilities of existing tuning tools with new administration programs for SQL Server Reporting Services and the mobile edition of SQL Server. Other enhancements include improved software for running complex analyses and the inclusion of so-called ETL (extract transform and load) tools for moving data from transaction systems into a data store for analysis.

Next year's planned arrival of SQL Server 2005, a core component of the company's fast-growing server software and development tools division, is expected to give Microsoft's database business a boost. The company has beefed up the capability of SQL Server so that it can compete more directly with IBM and Oracle for demanding computing jobs. Microsoft gained Windows database market share last year against its rivals, but Microsoft's overall growth slowed, according to market research firm Gartner.