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It has been a long time coming, but Microsoft has finally announced the release to manufacturing of SQL Server 2008.

"Microsoft developed this release of SQL Server with the customer in mind," said Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of the Data and Storage Platform Division at Microsoft. "SQL Server 2008 is the only major database that includes comprehensive, tightly integrated functionality for data management as well as advanced business intelligence out of the box. By offering a complete solution, we save customers time and money and allow them to focus on deriving the most value from their data assets."

The pre-release stats are impressive enough, with more than 450,000 customer and partner downloads of the SQL Server 2008 community technology previews and at least 75 large-scale applications already in production. Microsoft tell us that some 1,350 applications are being developed by around 1,000 independent software vendors using SQL Server 2008.

There is some confusion over the multiple flavours of SQL Server that are available, however. So here's a quick round-up of those different editions:

SQL Server 2008 Enterprise
SQL Server 2008 Enterprise is a comprehensive data management and business intelligence platform that provides enterprise-class scalability, data warehousing, security, advanced analytics and reporting support for running business-critical applications. With this edition, it is possible to consolidate servers and perform large-scale online transactional processing.

SQL Server 2008 Standard
SQL Server 2008 Standard is a complete data management and business intelligence platform that provides best-in-class ease of use and manageability for running departmental applications.

SQL Server 2008 Workgroup
SQL Server 2008 Workgroup is a reliable data management and reporting platform that delivers secure, remote synchronization and management capabilities for running branch applications. This edition includes core database features and is easy to upgrade to the Standard or Enterprise edition.

SQL Server 2008 Web
SQL Server 2008 Web is designed for highly available, Internet-facing Web-serving environments running on Windows Server. SQL Server 2008 Web provides the tools necessary to support low-cost, large-scale, highly available Web applications or hosting solutions for customers.

SQL Server 2008 Developer
SQL Server 2008 Developer allows developers to build and test any type of application with SQL Server. This edition features all of the functionality of SQL Server Enterprise but is licensed only for development, test and demo use. Applications and databases developed on this edition can easily be upgraded to SQL Server 2008 Enterprise.

SQL Server 2008 Express
SQL Server 2008 Express is a free edition of SQL Server that features core database functionality including all of the new SQL Server 2008 data types, in a small footprint. This edition is ideal for learning and building desktop and small server applications, and for redistribution by ISVs.

SQL Server Compact 3.5
SQL Server Compact is a free embedded database designed for developers and is ideal for building stand-alone and occasionally connected applications for mobile devices, desktops and Web clients. SQL Server Compact runs on all Microsoft Windows platforms, including the Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems, and on Pocket PC and smartphone devices.

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