Microsoft is researching new database technology which will enable SQL Server to compete on equal terms with enterprise-class relational databases such as Oracle7.
One of the research projects, codenamed AutoPilot, gives SQL Server the ability to optimise database queries automatically by adjusting database parameters to achieve better performance. AutoPilot would allow a database to monitor its load and resources and adapt the database structure accordingly.
Microsoft officials said the technology would allow SQL Server to drop underused database indexes in order to optimise database performance.
Microsoft also said the AutoPilot technology would be able to alter SQL query execution plans on the fly.
Self-tuning is a feature available on high-end databases. According to Oracle, Oracle7 can automatically distribute CPU usage across loosely coupled, massively parallel environments.
More new Microsoft technology, code named Phoenix, is intended as a way to give SQL Server a much needed boost. The technology would enable database applications to survive system failures by maintaining execution, persistence "This would mean applications could pick up where they left off after a crash without users having to intervene", a Microsoft official explained.
Microsoft was unable to give any indication of when AutoPilot and Phoenix would be integrated into the feature set of SQL Server. However, it is believed they will not be ready by the time SQL Server 7.0 is released early next year.
"All databases need very careful optimisation and tuning, and simplifying this is crucial," said Karen Green, product manager of Microsoft's business systems division. She claimed Phoenix would allow database administrators to choose how their database dealt with aborted transactions.
Rob Hailstone, senior analyst at Bloor Research, welcomed the news: "One of the things SQL Server does not have at the moment is a non-stop operating environment. It's about time Microsoft did something about this."
Microsoft is trying hard to refine its database technology to meet the needs of the corporate sector. On 20 May the company wil be demonstrating how SQL Server can run more than 1 billion database transactions in a day. Technology like AutoPilot and Phoenix should further help to push SQL Server further up the corporate ladder.
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