Kicking the Windows habit: Oracle 9i vs. SQL Server

Oracle and Microsoft -- the two get along like a mongoose and a cobra -- or Burt and Loni, gnashing their teeth in the press and in the marketplace. SQL Server is one way Microsoft keeps its eyes on the enterprise prize, but is it an Oracle killa? One Oracle official tells SearchWin2000 where SQL Server comes up short.

Oracle Corp. is a powerhouse when it comes to providing database software on Unix servers, and the Redwood Shores, Calif. company boasts a pretty good product for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows platform as well. But Microsoft's own SQL Server can't be counted out, particularly in smaller-sized enterprises. George Demarest, director of database marketing at Oracle, discusses some ways that his company will outmarket Redmond.

George Demarest, Oracle director of database marketing

  SearchWin2000: In your view, what are the main technical advantages of Oracle 9i over SQL Server?

George Demarest: The most dramatic is the ability to take two or more computers and hook them together so they act as a single database, and allow them to scale on Intel servers. If you have a single box and you run out of power, you can simply add another server and add the clustering option to Oracle. You won't get twice the power, but expect about 85% of power as you add another computer. This gets beyond the limit of 32-bit processors and a 32-bit OS. SQL Servers don't have cluster scalability. This was an expensive feature to develop. We were granted nine patents last year with 18 more patents on the way. We also have a feature called Dataguard, which allows for the creation and management of a standby database. It's typically used for emergency backup, but it can be used to switch between a primary and secondary server if you need to do maintenance. Our database handles locking at a fine-grained level. Microsoft made a big deal about its OLAP, but its OLAP is not integrated. We think that's a serious disadvantage. Having the analytics built in means you can use the scalability of your database. It means you have to do two different queries, first to do OLAP and then one to get at the database. We do analytics in the database where the data lives. There is no intermediate step.


SearchWin2000: Microsoft's 64-bit release of SQL Server is due in beta soon. How will this change the balance of things?

George Demarest: It's no advantage for either of us. We will have a 64-bit version of Oracle for Windows as well. It will help in terms of scalability. It will help Microsoft do more processing. We've had experience working with 64-bit Oracle (on Unix) for three or four years.


SearchWin2000: How would you compare the cost of setting up an Oracle database versus SQL Server?

George Demarest: Often, a database administrator has to figure in downtime and capacity planning. With our clusters you can add an extra computer without taking the database down. With (SQL Server), if you run out of horsepower, you have to buy a new computer. With Oracle you can buy low-cost computers and string them together. Another place we are in advance of SQL server is in online maintenance. Almost any basic database maintenance operation requires the database to be down, whereas almost 100% of standard database maintenance with Oracle can be done without taking the server down. Also, we get more out of hardware. The fact that Oracle is on other platforms and can be clustered on Windows -- there is no ceiling on how high Oracle can scale. A (SQL Server) customer would have to buy more hardware if their workload grows.


Another place we are in advance of SQL server is in online maintenance. Almost any basic database maintenance operation requires the database to be down, whereas almost 100% of standard database maintenance with Oracle can be done without taking the server down. -- Demarest


SearchWin2000: Oracle is known to have expensive maintenance contracts. Now there is word that you may be changing your maintenance pricing. Is this true?

George Demarest: I'm not aware of it. Our support costs are in line with Microsoft. Microsoft tries to get by with incident pricing. The sticker price might look low, but I don't think there is any real cost advantage.


SearchWin2000: When customers choose SQL Server over an Oracle database, what is the reason they give?

George Demarest: It's a combination of things. There is a perception that there is a big price difference, and sometimes there is. We have an edition of our product that costs less, and we haven't done a good job promoting that. We haven't been as effective with departmental buyers.


SearchWin2000: What's your biggest challenge in terms of acquiring customer mindshare?

George Demarest: In some ways we've been our own worst enemy. (Microsoft and Oracle)love to spar with each other. We've given the impression that we are anti-Windows. That's mostly rhetoric between our executives. Really, the opposite is true. Oracle 9i has more specific features for Windows than any other platform. So we will promote our standard edition and promote our technology on Windows. It's good if your department has the same data center as the rest of the company. This year we will be raising awareness (of our product) on Windows.


Microsoft and Oracle love to spar with each other. We've given the impression that we are anti-Windows. That's mostly rhetoric between our executives. Really, the opposite is true. -- Demarest


SearchWin2000: Once customers switch to SQL Server, how do you win them back?

George Demarest: A lot of that is marketing and sales execution. We don't have a clear message for the departmental buyer. Departments can pool resources, consolidate their SQL Server databases into a professional environment. Along with Linux, Windows is the fastest growing platform for databases. So we need sales execution and a strong migration capability. We do see migration from SQL Servers to Oracle. Often, departmental projects are spec'ed out on SQL Server and moved to Oracle when they go into production.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

SearchWin2000's Best Web Links on SQL Server
Article: Microsoft retorts, says Oracle isn't "all that"
SearchDatabase's Best Web Links on Oracle
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