Note on Trustworthy Computing

The following is the gist of a note I sent to my editor at BIPipeline. It is relevant as IE7 and Visual Studio betas reach the market:

Ted

I want to update you on my encounters with Microsofts SQL Server 2005 Community Technology Preview. I had decided to get up to speed in the new SQL Server in the same way that I have loaded up the new DB2 8.1 and Oracle 10g 1.1 databases and tried out the basic engines and specifically some of the BI features of each of the products. This is a pure defensive move – dont want to be reacting to product without some feel for basic engines.

So I ordered the “free” SQL Server 2005 DVD which Microsoft was going to charge me $29 for shipping and services; but I had an SDMagazine keycode that allowed me to get out from those charges. As it turns out – a good thing. So I was getting SQL Server 2005 in the hopes of trying out the new Reporting Services, BI Studio, and the enhanced Integration Services (old DTS – Microsofts ETL) plus a quick look see through the Analysis Services – you know one of those demo/tutorial canned tours.

Well 3 weeks and 5 days later the 2DVD Community Technology Preview arrived. I immediately fired it up on my 0.768GB 2.8MHz Toshiba portable. And I was pleased to see that I passed through all 13 pre-install checks with just one warning – 0.768GB does not match Microsofts recommended 1GB of memory for SQL Server 2005 CTP.

Nonetheless, I proceeded to do the install which went through peacefully with one notable exception – Reporting Server and Services is apparently not part of the June CTP-Community Technology Preview. So now I would be missing both Reporting Services and Maestro, which as a part of SharePoint, is a separate beta test system But Maestro does does require SQL Servers Notification Services as well as basic Database Services; so I figured I better get this CTP under my belt.

Despite being disappointed, I decided to press on and at least get my impressions of the new SQL Server engine and Analytic Services – wrong move as it turned out. I was concerned about the fact that I would have to load .NET framework 2.0 onto the already existing .NET 1.1 which I have with Windows XP Home edition Service Pack 2. But it appeared to be a false concern as .NET 2.0 ostensibly takes up only 90MB (but who knows what lurks in the Windows and MyDocuments directories). To my relief the SQL Server 2005 Management Studio fired up right away.

And while poking around I double-clicked on my database instance and got the SQL Server connection. And then I signed on using SQL Server authentication using sa and the password I assigned. And wow the database explorer tree filled in with tables, views, procedures and all the usual database objects. Off to a great start…

Bzzzt. When I right clicked on the NewAdventure database to try some queries – SQL Server asked me for another connection. Hmmm. Not expected. So I tried the usual suspects – sa and my password. Timeout. So I lengthen the timeout to 45seconds and then 90 seconds. No signon. Strange – the current connection allows me to explore any and all of the database objects and the master database as well as newadventures. Whats going on here? So I carefully shutdown the Management Studio and then all the database services. Restart the machine with all SQLServices set for automatic startup and then restart SQL Server 2005 Management Studio.

Now I cannot connect to the database at all. With sa I get the message that the connection is being refused by the SQL Server Engine. I try every permutation and combination of connections and services including advice from an old Microsoft buddy. 8++ hours of work later – Nada. I am locked out of SQLServer 2005 CTP. Well – not completely. I can get Analytical Services to fire up and it appears to be working until I point it at an OLAP Cube in which case it also refuses entry.

Now I can understand why SQL Server 2005 is 2 years late and counting. This is the third beta preview and if a veteran like me who got DB2 to work in less than the recommended 512 MB of memory; and Oracle 10g to fly off of a remote disk – and I can only get SQL Server to say “boo” – let alone “Hello World” (thats my standard stored procedures are up and running test). We have a problem Houston … uhh Redmond and its not the Space Shuttle.

I know. There is some wizard at Microsoft that can flash through about a half dozen tests and probably isolate the problem. And the problem is likely some network settings or a few properties settings – and then we have lift off. Until the next glitch or tile falls off and SQL Server 2005 again refuses to perform. I was in on the SQL Server 2000 beta – and let me tell you that beta purred like a kitten. What a difference five years and the .NET Framework plus Trustworthy Computing make.

SQL Server 2005 is supposed to be the stellar debut in a major Microsoft application of these two Redmond initiatives. In a June 27 2005 piece for Information Week Charles Babcock insists that “Microsoft has cemented its .NET programming environ “. I dont know – the stuff must be permanent quicksand. I am having serious doubts about SQL Server 2005 having a clean launch because of .NET flakiness.

Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 were to be the two leading tools that carried complete .NET Framework implementations. This would set up things for Longhorn, Avalon, Indigo, WinFS and all the .NET based Windows Services. But given the back-off from Visual Studio being pure .NET, the unresolved problems revolving around COM, VBA, and ADO; plus the yin-yang around Smart Clients and .NETs role – I think Charles is a bit off on his timing for the .NET cement setting. And this from a well respected pundit on application development.

Meantime, even if SQL Server 2005 comes out in 2005 .. it looks like it really should be 2006. This will be a litmus test for Trustworthy Computing from Microsoft.

Jacques Surveyer

(c)2005