Monday, December 18, 2006

Is Beta SQL Server Express SP2 for Vista an Issue?

The site published Business 2.0 magazine writer Owen Thomas's December 15, 2006 "Vista flaw could haunt Microsoft" article with this deck:

"Microsoft wants a bigger piece of Oracle and IBM's database business, but an oversight in its new operating system could cost the company plenty."

The upshot of the article? SQL Server 2005 Express Edition (SSX) isn't licensed to run today on Windows Vista desktops, so Microsoft loses bigtime. Here are bullet points for the article's primary assertions:

  • "A company that deftly moved from strength to strength, leveraging its dominance in one area of software to command other parts of the tech business ... is long gone, folks."
  • Microsoft "has lost its Midas Touch ... in [i]ts bid for a bigger piece of the $14 billion database business, a sector now ruled by Oracle and IBM."
  • [C]ompanies looking to install Vista, which went on sale to corporate customers Nov. 30, are going to have to get their database management software someplace else.
  • "IBM has beaten Microsoft to the punch. Last week management software, called DB2 9 Express-C, that's compatible with Vista.IBM released a desktop version of its competing database." [Emphasis added.]
  • Google "is beating Microsoft in other arenas ... [because Microsoft] has forgotten how to execute its own playbook of launching a coordinated wave of products that all work together."
  • "Microsoft will get this straightened out - eventually. By then, it just might be time to launch another version of Windows."

The foregoing egregious example of breathless journalism begs these issues:

  • SSX SP-1, the current incarnation, is fully supported on Windows Vista, according to the December 19, 2006 "Inaccuracies in recent article about SQL Express and Windows Vista" post on Microsoft's SQL Server Express blog, the SQL 2005 Server Express Edition System Requirements page, and the SQL Server 2000 (including MSDE) on Windows Vista FAQ page. (Thanks to Microsoft's Mike Wachal for bringing this to my attention in this post's Comments.)
  • It's SSX with Advanced Features (SP) that isn't supported by Windows Vista. This SKU, which includes SQL Server Management Studio Express (SSMSX) and enables full-text search plus local SQL Server Reporting Services, currently is used primarily by developers and DBAs. These first two points effectively moot the remaining issues.
  • Deployment of SSX, Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE) 1.0, and Microsoft Desktop Engine (MSDE) 2000 for local data storage on desktops and laptops remains relatively uncommon. Jet 4.0, which is included in the Windows XP and Vista operating system and used by Access, Visual Basic 6.0/200x, and other .NET and COM-based front-end apps is a much more common back end than SQL Server.
  • The most common application for the three freely distributable SQL Server versions is as a multiuser back end for workgroup or divisional database applications that need more robustness, reliability, and scalability than Jet 4.0 offers. In this case, the back-end server almost always resides on a domain or workgroup server that isn't a candidate for a Vista desktop upgrade.
  • The cost of modifying client-side applications to run another "free" database, including moving the stored data and testing the resulting client/server reconfiguration, is astronomical compared to waiting briefly for the release version of SSX SP2 and its data management/support tools.
  • The only other sources of free client/server databases that come even close to matching SSX's capabilities are IBM and Oracle. IBM hadn't even released a technical preview of DB2 9 Express-C for Vista as of December 13, 2006 (They released a technical preview on December 19, 2006 at about 12:00 p.m., see below). As of December 18, 2006, Oracle hadn't made an announcement about the compatibility of Oracle Database 10g XE with Windows Vista (see below).
  • SSX with Advanced Services offers SSRS and FTS features; neither IBM DB2 9 Express-C or Oracle Database 10g XE include fully customized reporting or high-performance, indexed full-text search features.
  • I haven't seen reports of any significant problems incurred by upgrading MSDE 1.0 or 2000 databases to SSX running under Windows Vista. I've moved multi-GB database (.mdf/.ldf)files from MSDE 2000 to SSX under Vista without difficulty.
  • Windows Vista's official release date is January 30, 2007. Until then, judgements about Microsoft's loss of revenue from not releasing the RTM version of SSX SP2 are premature.

Full Disclosure: As mentioned in my profile to the right, I make a significant part of my living writing about Microsoft productivity applications, operating systems, database platforms, and new data-related technologies.

A Forthcoming "Technical Preview" of DB2 9 Express-C for Windows Vista: When?

IBM issued a December 7, 2006 press release that claimed DB2 9 Express-C was ready to run on Windows Vista. However, in a subsequent December 13, 2006 "DB2 Express-C on Vista!" post, the DB2 Express Community team's Ryan Chase said "[W]e will be providing a tech preview of DB2 Express-C on Vista before year end." [Emphasis added.] On December 19, 2002, the link to this page was the top item of the News section of IBM's main page for DB2 Express-C under the following graphic:

The full text of the "DB2 Express-C on Vista!" post is here, in case it disappears from the IBM site:


Some of you may have seen the press already, for those that haven't, IBM has announced that DB2 Express-C on Vista will be available soon! We are ironing out the final bugs and doing some final testing as we speak, and we will be providing a tech preview of DB2 Express-C on Vista before year end. (I'm hoping it's much sooner, but I don't want to make promises I can't keep.)

This is a tech preview of the official Vista support in DB2 9, which will be coming very soon! (Stay tuned for official announcement info.)

Ryan Chase DB2 Express Community team

Ian Hakes, IBM DB2 UDB Express Community Facilitator, posted on December 19, 2006 at 12:32 p.m. a "See the view from the Vista" message on the IBM DB2 Express forum, announcing that the Vista-enabled version was now ready for download by registered IBM Website users. Here's the download description:

DB2 9 Express-C for Windows Vista on 32-bit AMD and Intel systems (x86) (Technology Preview) (350MB) [emphasis added]

According to an e-mail to me from Owen Thomas, as well as a comment to his December 15, 2006 "Vista's Database Failure" blog post on the subject, IBM said they had withdrawn the download for a bug fix and reinstated the download today (after the first set of today's updates were posted). However, he didn't mention in his article, comments, or the e-mail that the Vista-enabled version was a technology preview, not a fully released version.

It's doubtful that any rational IT executive would abandon SSX on a Vista upgrade for a promise that IBM might sometime deliver a DB2 9 Express-C Vista release—let alone a technology preview.

Most technology reporters I know look beyond press releases to verify a new or upgraded product's status.

Note: DB2 9 Express-C has the fewest operating restrictions of the three Express products: "DB2 Express-C can be run on up to 2 dual-core CPU servers, with up to 4 GB of memory, any storage system setup and with no restrictions on database size or any other artificial restrictions." The license agreement confirms these two restrictions.

Subsequent DB2 9.1 Express-C installation: On December 19, 2006, I installed DB2 9 Express-C for Windows Vista on a Gateway S-5200D system with a 2.8-GHz Intel Pentium D(ual Core) processor, 2 GB RAM, and an nVidia GeForce 6600 GPU with 256 MB RAM. The installation process threw an 'ADM10500E Health indicator "Monitor Heap Utilization" ("db2.mon_heap_util") breached the "upper" alarm threshold of "95 %" with value "100 %" on "instance" "DB2"' error, several 'Faulting application db2InstallEventLog.exe, version, time stamp 0x457d788d' errors, and many warnings but ran to completion. During operation, the Java Launcher throws "The color scheme has changed" notices on startup. It appears to me that the Technical Preview needs a few warts removed.

IBM DB2 Add-In for Visual Studio 2005 installation: I also installed and confirmed compatibility of the IBM DB2 Add-In for Visual Studio 2005 with the Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 Update for Windows Vista Beta. I connected to my DB2 instance with my Domain Admins account with the native IBM DB2 Data Provider for .NET Framework 2.0, created a Data Source from the SAMPLE database's PRODUCT and INVENTORY tables, and tested DataGridView and details data entry forms.

Note: Microsoft released VS 2005 SP1 for other platforms on December 14, 2006.

No Oracle Database 10g XE Support for Windows Vista

Oracle Database XE System Requirements state that Oracle XE supports "[o]ne of the following 32-bit Windows operating systems:

  • Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 or later
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1 or later"

The only reference to Oracle support for Windows Vista I've been able to find is his vague statement from Tom Haunert in the special 2006 Windows edition of Oracle Magazine: "Oracle is working with Windows Vista and other Microsoft technologies today in order to provide Oracle customers with new solutions for Windows tomorrow."

Note: Oracle XE's minimum server component diskspace requirement is 1.6GB, making the product impractical for use as a client-side data store. Clients also require installing the 75-MB client component.

My Experiences with the SSX SP2 November 2006 CTP for Windows Vista

I installed the Windows Vista Ultimate Edition RTM (Gold Code) from the MSDN site on a Gateway S-5200D with a 28-GHz Pentium D, 2 GB RAM, and 180-GB SATA drive. I then installed SQL Server 2005 Express Edition with Advanced Services SP2 - November 2006 CTP from the download site. I included SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and Full-Text Search (FTS) features and accepted the default options when running the installer. I then specified TCP/IP and Named Pipes connectivity and enabled CLR Integration with the SQL Server Surface Area Configuration Tool.

I then began creating, updating, and upgrading databases up to 1.2GB in size from SSX and MSDE 2000 running under Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. The only issue I encountered was failure of the Surface Area Contriguration Tool to open a port for SQLServer.exe in Windows in Windows Firewall. (The tool opened UPP Port 1434 for the SQL Browser service but not for the randomly-assigned TCP/IP port for the non-default OAKLEAF-WV20\SQLSERVER named instance.) I haven't tested SSRS or FTS extensively so far, because none of SSX's no-charge competitors offer these high-end features.

After serveral days of testing, the Application event log showed a single "The configuration of the AdminConnection\TCP protocol in the SQL instance SQLEXPRESS is not valid" error message, which I attribute to SSX's lack of a dedicated administrative connection.

Possible Microsoft Missteps

Here's where I think Microsoft went wrong:

  • In my opinion, the decision to embargo MSDE 1.0 and 2000 from Windows Vista systems, which I reported in a July 11, 2006 "Windows Vista Won't Support MSDE 1.0 and 2000" Post, was a serious public relations error.
  • The October [sic] CTP end-user license agreement (License_EXPRCOMP_ENU.txt) in the \Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\90\EULA folder requires "another agreement" from Microsoft to "test the software in a live operating environment" but doesn't tell you how to obtain such an agrement.
  • The same EULA (and License_EXPR_ENU.txt for SSX SP1) states that "Microsoft provides Internet-based services with the software. It may change or cancel them at any time." The EULA doesn't define "Internet-based services." However, loss of use with or support by Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0 would be a disaster for many small organizations who depend on SSX as a Web site datasource.

However, I don't believe any of the preceding issues will affect Microsoft's future revenue stream from Windows Vista or SQL Server significantly.

Updated: 12/19/2006: Minor additions. 12/19/2006, 2:30 p.m. PST: Major additions and changes. 12/20/2006: Minor additions.


Anonymous said...

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