Microsoft SQL Server 2008 to Support Spatial Data

In the better-late-than-never category, Microsoft has announced SQL Server 2008 will support spatial data.

Microsoft has been hedging their way in to the GIS marketplace for a while, beginning slowly with Terraserver, MapPoint, and now Virtual Earth. They now join Oracle, DB2, and other proprietary database vendors in adding spatial data support directly to their enterprise database.

Details are still emerging, but it looks like it will support two data types - “flat earth” (projected) and “round earth” or an ellipsoidal model. I’m a little sketchy as to why those were put in to two data types, other than WGS84 is a bit easier to handle computationally as there aren’t projection issues to deal with, but that doesn’t sound like a great reason to me. SQL 2008 will ship with about 70 spatial functions (PostGIS ships with around 700 or so), and those functions primarily support OGC simple feature specifications requirements. No word on whether a map viewer piece will be included, and there is also no word on whether this feature will come at additional cost or what version(s) of SQL 2008 will be required. ESRI has indicated they will support SQL 2008’s spatial data features in a future release.

It is a measure of how much GIS has grown that standard IT vendors keep jumping in to the mix, and it’s good for our industry if our traditional GIS vendors are pushed by more competition. Although I’m a bit skeptical over Microsoft’s commitment to follow OGC (or any open) standards, it’s a good sign they are targeting OGC specs at the outset.

SQL Server 2008, barring an unfortunate name change, is scheduled for release next year.