Microsoft has announced that SQL Server 2008 is released to manufacturing – ie. the bits are done, even if you can’t buy it yet. MSDN subscribers can download it now.
This is the product that was “launched” back in February; it’s been a long delay but I get the impression that the SQL team likes to wait until its release really is ready.
SQL Server 2008 is more like a suite of products than a single product now. It has a large range of editions from Compact to Enterprise, and product areas like Analysis Services and Reporting Services are distinct from the core engine.
The pieces that interest me most are the spatial data types, sparse columns, FILESTREAM data type, and the various object-relational layers including LINQ, Entity Framework, ADO.NET Data Services, and the ongoing work with SQL Server Data Services (which is far from done yet).
DBAs will likely have a very different view of what is important, as will Business Intelligence specialists.
SQL Server has prospered by being cheaper than than the likes of Oracle and DB2, and by integrating smoothly with Windows and Active Directory. I wonder if it will feel pressure from even more cost-effective open source offerings like MySQL, as they become more Enterprise-ready?