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The April CTP is Here and No Beta 3

By Steve Jones,

Microsoft announced yesterday morning that the newest CTP for SQL Server 2005 is available. The press release is on their site and covers Visual Studio 2005 as well as SQL Server.

There are a few interesting things about this announcement and things that I think are good for the evolution of SQL Server. First, Visual Studio and the .NET 2.0 Framework moved into Beta 2. This is important because these products are tied tightly with SQL Server 2005. They both need the .NET framework and there's been a commitment to release VS2005 at the same time as SQL Server 2005, so we definitely want to see them moving forward together. I know most DBAs might not have used VS 2005, but now is the time to start looking at it. You'll want to be able to step in and debug as well as write your own .NET functions, procedures, etc.

The big announcement, in the 2nd part of the press release, is that there will be no SQL Server 2005 Beta 3! Instead, the CTP model, new builds every other month. At least that's what SQLServerCentral.com was told last week. The release doesn't mention timing, but getting a new interim build every couple of months is a great way to go. Having things scheduled definitely helps with planning and the decision to move forward with new releases.

So, if you've been waiting for Beta 3 to move off Beta 2, or you've been waiting to get started with a performance tuned beta, don't. Get the latest CTP from Betaplace and start testing. Or porting your apps to see how they run. As of this writing, the latest CTP wasn't on the MSDN downloads, but hopefully they'll rectify that soon.

I think this is a great announcement and it certainly makes some decisions here at SQLServerCentral.com. I've been holding off removing my February CTP of SQL Server 2005 and waiting for Beta 3 because, well it's time consuming and a pain to uninstall/reinstall and I was hoping for a more performance tuned Beta. Now I know it's not coming and I can plan to upgrade every two months to the newest CTP, or if I'm pressed for time, every 4 months. Since there still is a commitment to release by the end of the year, there should only be at most 3 more CTPs to go.

It's also a philosophy that I've used in my software development career. Frequent, smaller builds released to production. In one startup, we released every week for nearly two years. Tackling smaller chunks of functionality enabled us to show progress constantly to users and quickly abandon or spend more time in areas that users were unhappy or very happy with. Or more importantly, it enabled users to work with an enhancement, which may change the way they work with the product or may inspire them to request something they might not have otherwise done.

Software development is an interactive process and often the things the user wants are things they are not aware they want. Once they see something, they start to think about how to use it and get inspired to evolve the software in a different way. It's slightly different in shrink wrap software, especially as SQL Server has to work in many environments, But if Microsoft had a large number of beta customers tell them something didn't work as they expected in the real world, or if there were lots of requests in one area, they can quickly move some resources there before RTM.

Even if you're not going to upgrade this year, or in 2006, look at the product. Spend a little time getting a feel for how the features you need work. Even if these are features that are in SQL Server 2000, see if they work better.

If you've got concerns about this model and the testing or lack thereof for "interim builds", you might want to read this video blog on testing.

And use sqlwish@microsoft.com or the beta newsgroups to report issues or requests. You really do influence the development of the product with feedback. Microsoft for all their faults and for being such a large corporation really does listen to customers in a way that I haven't often seen from vendors. I don't always agree with how they run the business, but I do see them looking at my feedback and I get responses. A few of my sqlwish suggestions got responses last year with a "It's already in Yukon and here's how it works." I even got code samples with most of the responses.

The other thing is that if you are looking to move to SQL Server 2005 and are considering doing so early, apply for a Go-Live license. I haven't seen the link, but if you contact someone at the Beta program about SQL Server 2005, they can point you in the right direction.

We here at SQLServerCentral.com are looking to go live right now. We've been in contact with the support group and are working with them to get setup. Once we do, look for some articles and notes on the experience. I'm also trying to get up with someone to interview and talk about the CTP program since I think it's a good thing and it's one that I'd like to know why this decision was made.

Lastly, even though this site is devoted to SQL Server and the three of us, Andy, Brian, and myself, spend time and effort promoting the product, I wanted to be sure that we disclose something. We get no money from Microsoft. They don't buy advertising on this site or in our magazine, but if you can convince them to do so, please do :). The three of us have worked with and believe in the product and that's why we started this site and continue to run it.

Steve Jones ©2005 dkranch.net

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