So why does Watters want to move to Yukon right now? One big reason is a new service at PhotoWorks called Pick Your Prints.
Introduced last July, Pick Your Prints lets customers print only the photos they want, as opposed to printing a whole roll of film. Instead of paying for prints, customers pay for "print credits" (24 shots = 24 print credits). If a customer doesn't use all the print credits that are available for a roll of film, the credits can be carried forward toward future print jobs. Customers decide which pictures to print after viewing the shots on PhotoWorks' Web site.
PhotoWorks now has about 245 employees. Most of them use one of a variety of flavors of Windows desktops: Windows 2000, ME, or 98. However, others still sit behind "dumb" terminals, entering order data into the legacy PICS system.
A large part of Watters' job is to massage the data from Unix servers for use with Web-based services such as Pick Your Prints.
Watters points to a couple of features in Yukon that he believes will help ease this process: native XML integration and Microsoft's redesigned DTS.
"SQL Server 2000 can handle importing and exporting XML, but not natively," Watters maintains. With PhotoWorks' existing SQL 2000 servers, he's been using Microsoft's XML Extensions.
"However, the extensions require us to do lots of manipulation. I put a good amount of work into being able to consume and produce XML, so that all development layers can speak the same language. In Yukon, though, it looks as though we'll have out-of-the-box functionality for exchanging data, without needing to construct and reconstruct XML in and out of the database."
Watters: "I Love this DTS!"
"The new DTS is actually a complete rebuild. I just love this DTS! It's like having a real IDE (integrated development environment) with every tool you need inside. Before, you'd have to log data as it came in. Now, you can just view it all coming through," he contends.
"Performance is now an order of magnitude better. Plus, you can debug every object and every variable. You can extract and transform data without using any RAM. There are features coming out of Microsoft Research, too, such as the ability to do fuzzy lookup within the IDE. Microsoft is doing lots of smaller things, as well, like giving you out-of-the-box functionality for looping out a collection of files."
Unfortunately, however, Watters isn't exactly certain which DTS features in Yukon will make it into the final release. "We have a fairly complex ETL environment that uses DTS but still employs custom code to get certain things done. Given how DTS is working in Yukon, there will be no custom code, from what I can tell. But since delivery of Yukon is still a ways out, who knows how it will change between now and then?"
Moreover, Watters also cites the new DTS as an aspect of SQL 2003 that could be particularly tough to learn. "Some of the concepts are the same, so some skills will transfer, but all in all, DTS will not allow most package developers to just sit down and start building complex packages immediately."