NZ early adopters encouraged by SQL Server 2005 experience

Microsoft officially launches SQL Server 2005

The simultaneous release of Microsoft’s SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 last week might be described as “long awaited”, but that would be inaccurate in the eyes of several New Zealand users, who gave up waiting and went into production with the beta version of SQL in particular.

The new SQL Server is regarded as Microsoft’s pitch for the big league database world. Microsoft has had time to put a strong competitor together, not only within itself, but having strong integration services to help bring in legacy data from earlier environments and to work better with other Microsoft components. “Integration services could be the sleeper of this launch,” says Microsoft senior technical product manager Matt Nunn.

The ASB Bank runs a large data warehouse but was looking to farm out more tightly targeted sets of data into smaller datamarts pertinent to specific kinds of business analysis. This provided a suitable arena in which to experiment with the new database system and the bank used SQL Server 2005’s reporting services to set up “seven or eight” large datamarts with appropriate reporting.

Then the requirement for the Basel II standard of reporting — the banking parallel to Sarbanes-Oxley — loomed. The standard is designed to impose greater rigour on credit and risk management. By signing up for Basel II accrediation, banks gain certain compensatory advantages, such as a decrease in the amount of capital they hold in reserve.

What was needed was a series of reports from multiple sources. ASB had confidence in earlier versions of SQL Server and other Microsoft products but was committed to a very tight timeframe. “It was a risky decision to go with a beta version,” says Peter Newey, manager of SQL solutions at the bank.

The new database offered a much richer functionality “out of the box”, he says, and the integration services were invaluable during development. The notification services element of SQL Server was used both to deliver messages to users about changes in their data and to trigger events on the arrival of data.

The bank met its accreditation deadlines despite having to participate in parallel in the beta-test reporting process with Microsoft. It was able to satisfy international authorities that the data handled through SQL Server 2005 was sufficiently clean and secure. Perfomance gains were also evident.

ASB’s experience has enabled it to establish a framework which it can apply easily to a variety of future data reporting needs.

Children’s-wear company Pumpkin Patch based a whole online transaction processing system on SQL Server 2005, assisting it in its expansion to US and Middle-Eastern markets where time-zone differences made round-the-clock reliability essential, as well as requiring future scalability.

There was “lots of original intellectual property” in the Pumpkin Patch system and there was some risk in taking all those developments through the upgrade, but the experience was “not too bad”, says Pumpkin Patch spokesman Colin Sunkell. The company had struggled to keep up as the size and complexity of the old database grew, but performance has improved.

The Farmers department store has used SQL Server 2005 to take it into a service-oriented architecture.

The upgrade also integrates the SQL database with Farmers’ SAP system, with the aid of Biztalk Server 2006 also still in beta.

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