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Microsoft Yukon: Worth the Wait?

Despite the well-known shipping delays, some beta testers are actually quite avid about Microsoft's upcoming SQL Server 2003, code-named Yukon. Tech journalist Jacqueline Emigh interviewed PhotoWorks' Don Watters, one DBA who thinks that Yukon will be worth the wait. Watters is a strong believer in Yukon's native XML integration and redesigned DTS. However, Microsoft still has work ahead in terms of database security, usability, and a variety of other areas, the beta tester admits.
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"I can hardly wait!" exclaims Don Watters, data group manager for PhotoWorks, Inc. and a long-time SQL Server user. The object of Watters' enthusiasm is Microsoft SQL Server 2003, codenamed Yukon. Watters, who is a Yukon beta tester, isn't sure yet which features will be included in the final release of SQL Server 2003, when it actually ships. However, he hopes that Microsoft will retain Yukon's new XML and DTS capabilities, while ultimately overcoming SQL Server's 2000 security holes, Yukon's "clunky setup process," and a number of other issues.

PhotoWorks, a multifaceted photo-production service, has its roots in Seattle FilmWorks, a company formed back in 1979 to develop motion picture film into slides and prints. After branching out in various mail-order, CD processing, and online directions, Seattle FilmWorks changed its name to PhotoWorks in the year 2000.

Today, Watters oversees a mixed database implementation at PhotoWorks that combines SQL Server (used for OLAP and Web site applications) with legacy AIX- and DG-UX-based PIC systems (used for order entry, customer service, and production).

The photo firm first began migrating some of its database functionality from PICS to SQL Server about 15 years ago. "We don't have a big database team, but there are some very complicated things going on with our databases. So migration has needed to be slow but sure," Watters explains.

At this point, Watters looks forward to the day—some time in the future—when he can deploy SQL Server for all of PhotoWorks' database applications. He expects that many of the new features in SQL Server 2003 will help him speed development of new features for PhotoWorks' customers.

Despite his overall enthusiasm, though, Watters thinks that Microsoft still has work to do—either now or somewhere down the line—in areas ranging from security and hot fixes to database setup, reporting features, and backup procedures.

This DBA Knows Oracle, Too

Somewhat ironically, the veteran SQL Server user actually started out his career as an Oracle database administrator, long before taking a job at PhotoWorks.

"Back in 1999, I went to a small dot-com that needed help with SQL Server. I said to myself, 'Why not? I'll try it,'" Watters recalls.

"I was dumbfounded to find out that I really liked SQL Server. I'd spent a lot of time tuning things on Oracle. I think SQL Server is better from the standpoints of ease of use, manageability, and the tool set," he adds.

"Everything is pretty standard and consistent on SQL Server. Because of that, I've been able to concentrate more on business rules and front-end development, instead of back-end administration."

After joining PhotoWorks three years ago, Watters took part in the beta test of SQL Server 2000. "SQL 2000 brought a faster and easier-to-use development environment, which we did expect to see. However, we didn't realize in advance that it'd also optimize the speed of queries," he notes.

"SQL 2000 also let us do some database consolidation," according to Watters. Beyond its SQL 2000 configurations, PhotoWorks still runs three SQL 7 databases.

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