Forecasting SQL Server in 2010

After the misery  that was 2009, most of the SQL Server users I talk to are happy that 2010 started in languid fashion. Not that there isn't a lot of work to do; on the contrary, there's more work than ever. However, the long hours and multiple projects of 2009, compounded by freezes in all levels of spending, raised the general stress level to unhealthy heights. With the new year, stress levels dropped significantly, and many IT leaders see signs of improving prospects. What does that bode for 2010? I have a couple of predictions, though I doubt they'll surprise many people.

Strong Adoption of SQL Server 2008

This might sound like a no-brainer, but there's more to this prediction than meets the eye. First of all, SQL Server 2008 R2 launch has been announced for May of this year. Wouldn't that slow down adoption of SQL Server 2008?  Well, no, not really.

With Microsoft's promise after the release of SQL Server 2005 to move to a 24- to 36-month cycle for product releases, many SQL Server shops voiced more than passing irritation with such an aggressive upgrade schedule. Now that the dust has settled and Microsoft's announced scheduling is reality, many customers have decided they simply can't keep up with the upgrade schedule and have made peace with upgrading as often as is practical, probably every two releases. 

On one hand, that's great for Microsoft today because many customers are busy upgrading to SQL Server 2008, or have plans to do so soon. On the other hand, Microsoft can kiss goodbye a strong adoption curve for SQL Server 2008 R2 immediately after launch. In a sense, the market's willingness to allow their own business needs to drive their upgrade cycles is good for Microsoft. I believe we'll see more predictability to SQL Server customers' adoption curve of new releases.

Proofs of Concept for SQL Azure

Cloud computing is getting a lot of press, but it isn't actually high on the list of priorities for most IT managers. Consequently, the market is taking the attitude of "let someone else be the guinea pig." SQL Azure, while offering a strong set of features and pricing, is actually the newest of the credible cloud-based databases (other more time-tested offerings coming from Google and Amazon) and has fewer reference customers than its competition. Will IT shops deploy big applications to SQL Azure in 2010? My guess is that Microsoft may persuade a small handful of important customers to put a big and important application into their cloud. However, the vast majority of applications actually deployed on SQL Azure in 2010 will be replacements for MS-Access databases or MySQL databases, at best, and simple proofs of concept without much real business value. I'm convinced very few enterprises will deploy an important application in the cloud until there are rock-solid case studies proving that SQL Azure is reliable and secure. SQL Azure will show up on IT managers'  lists of alternatives once enterprises have experience with it and see some strong case studies.

BI Continues Its Ascent

The other DBMS players in the market continue to lose ground to Microsoft in the BI space, a trend that's accelerating with SQL Server 2008 R2. The amazing new capabilities (and negligible cost) of PowerPivot heighten SQL Server's already formidable lead in pushing decision-making information to all levels of an enterprise. I firmly believe the organizations that "get it" will use PowerPivot and other BI features in R2 to gain an actual and measurable competitive edge in the marketplace. Why? PowerPivot makes information accessible and actionable to the rank-and-file manager-that's why. It's been a long, long time since I could say that about a single feature in a platform DBMS product! While other DBMS platforms have credible BI offerings, none are as cost-effective or hardwired into the infrastructure of an enterprise as the new features in R2.

Agree or disagree? I'd love to hear your feedback here or at my personal website- Follow me on Twitter at @KEKline.