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SQL Server Express a Mixed Bag for ISVs
By Lisa Vaas


Microsoft Corp.'s decision to boot out its MSDE embedded database in favor of its relatively new SQL Server 2005 Express Edition is getting mixed reviews with ISVs.

While many ISVs are thrilled with Express' new features and the fact that it's free, others that are doing good business basing their applications on MSDE are nervous that Microsoft is rocking the boat.

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"Most [applications that default install with MSDE (SQL Server Desktop Engine)] can be rehosted to a full-fledged Microsoft SQL Server installation, but these migrations aren't necessarily advantageous to the IT staff or to the end user," said Daniel Sydnes, of IT Builders LLC, in an e-mail exchange.

What's the problem? Many applications already include their own reporting, backup and API features, thus making these Express-delivered new features redundant, Sydnes said. Also, there's "rarely any benefit in accessing their underlying raw (and often undocumented!) data structures," he wrote.

Greg Paul, product marketing manager for Ipswitch Inc.'s WhatsUp line of network management tools, said that while Ipswitch will "definitely be looking" at the new features, the ISV won't want to bring those features into the forefront.

"We'll try to suppress [those features] as much as possible and do silent install," he said. "Our goal is to hide a lot of that complexity from the end user."

For its part, Express Metrix, maker of IT asset management tools, shied away from embedding Express' new feature set in its latest release set because the ISV didn't have time to test out the features before shipping.

"For us, we had to step back and make a decision: What do we do about brand-new software being released that we had to add to the testing process?" said Kris Barker, CEO and head of Express Metrix's development team.

eWEEK.com Special Report: SQL Server 2005

"The challenge for a lot of ISVs is not just do you go ahead with something like this and just start shipping an updated version of MSDE, but do you take advantage of SQL Server 2005 Express functionality that didn't exist in previous versions?" he said. "That's a tough call for any vendor. In an environment where you're just one of a number of database environments, you're not in a position to dictate what version of SQL a customer will run."

Even when Express Metrix does move to SQL Server Express, likely in its next version, it will probably continue to stay away from SQL Server Express' new features, Barker said, just to avoid alienating customers.

"Likely in the next release we will ship with Express, but it probably won't take advantage of anything specific to that version, just to make sure we're not pushing people in a direction they don't want to go," he said.

Tim Tow, Microsoft's SQL Server product manager, hastens to reassure ISVs that at least when it comes to silent install, that's one feature that makes Express the ideal choice for an embedded database.

"[It has] new installation and a new installer," he said. "But it still has additional support for silent install. It has more options than MSDE. The silent install is hidden installation. The ISV can install and execute it in the background. The ISV doesn't have to expose the SQL Server install process at all. That simplifies it for ISVs."

Silent install is important because users only care about the ISV's application, not whatever application is under the surface, Tow said. In addition, small organizations without a lot of technical support don't want to deal with multiple install options.

Next Page: ISVs test Express.

     
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