Comment SQL Server 2005 will have a lot of good stuff in it. One of the things I particularly like is the BI Development Studio, which is effectively an extension to Visual Studio for developing BI applications. One of the features of this product is its support for building virtual cubes – does this mean that Microsoft is planning to address the EII (enterprise information integration) and federated query market?
I should go back a bit. What this facility will do is to allow you to define a virtual schema across multiple, heterogeneous sources. Specifically, this is designed to support the creation of virtual cubes for Analysis Services. You can also set a slider control to determine how frequently you want the data in the cube updated (from real-time to batch) with the cube effectively acting as a cache when the updating is on a real-time basis.
Now, where have I seen this before? That's right, as one of the key components in a federated query environment. Of course, that's only a part of such a solution and, in particular, you need a decent distributed optimiser to make such a system hum but, nevertheless, one can see the outlines of such a system.
So I asked Microsoft the question, to which the response was along the lines "we couldn't possibly comment". Actually, it was slightly more negative than this might imply but it certainly wasn't a definite no.
Oracle is the other major vendor not to be currently offering federated query. Well, that's not quite true. I asked them a couple of years ago if they planned to support it and the response was that they had been doing it since Oracle 5! Which I think means that they didn't understand the question. Maybe I didn't explain myself very well.
The problem for Oracle is that a federated approach is contrary to the company's credo of consolidation. Offering both approaches would represent a change of tack (not that that would be anything new from Larry – and I am not referring to the America's Cup) but would by no means be impossible, particularly given Oracle's marketing machine. However, I am inclined to think that the company will take that plunge in due course.
The big problem for both Oracle and Microsoft is performance. Getting federated query to run at a decent speed really needs a lot of work on the optimiser – you can't just drop in your database optimiser and hope that that will do – and neither company can afford a product that performs like a dog.
So, yes, I think we will see federated query platforms appear from both companies, but I am not holding my breath.