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Oracle, open source putting the squeeze on SQL Server

Oracle Corp. is beginning to win the battle for small and medium-sized customers, putting pressure on Microsoft SQL Server developers.

Microsoft developers working on the next version of SQL Server are beginning to feel the squeeze from competitive pressures, as they race to release the next version of the DBMS.

Increased competition from rival Oracle Corp. and Sweden-based open source DBMS, MySQL AB, to grab market share from Microsoft is beginning to work, experts said.

This release for Microsoft is critical because of the pressure Oracle is putting on it, but also because of the challenges open source pose.
Kevin Kline,
presidentProfessional Association for SQL Server users

Microsoft announced this week that it won't release SQL Server 2005 until the summer, but it will roll out a technical preview of the product.

The DBMS has already faced two delays, prompting the rollout of additional beta versions. A third beta program, which had been scheduled for the end of this year, will now be released in the first quarter of next year, Microsoft said in a letter to beta testers this week.

Paul Flessner, senior vice president of the server platform division at Microsoft, said the technical preview will allow users to test and experiment with new features, as they are added without having to wait for the next beta.

Meanwhile, Oracle has ramped up its efforts to move down market for SQL Server customers, slashing prices of its entry level DBMS this year and introducing more automation and ease-of-use features in its 10g DBMS. At the same time, Microsoft is feeling pressure from open source DBMS MySQL, which is making a move upstream to capture a larger customer base, said Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Cambridge Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

In January, Oracle reduced the price of its Standard Edition One database to $4,995 per processor, and the company extended the maximum server capacity to two processors. The price for the standard edition of Microsoft's SQL Server 2000 is also $4,995 per processor.

"The SMB market is looking at Oracle more seriously," Yuhanna said. "At the moment, some SQL Server customers are reaching the point to where they're at least looking at Oracle."

The key features that have kept MySQL from gaining more market share, such as the lack of triggers and stored procedures, will be introduced next year, making the database more attractive to enterprises, Yuhanna said.

"Open source will have an impact on the buying strategy for a lot of customers in the next three to four years," Yuhanna said.

For more information:

DBMS wars: The big three in 2004

Lessons learned: Upgrading to Oracle 10g

Database vendors have been adding automation to their products, making them less complicated, said Kevin Kline, director of technology for SQL server solutions at Irvine, Calif.-based Quest Software Inc. and president of the Professional Association for SQL Server users. Quest, which makes database tools and management software, is seeing interest build in other databases, including Oracle 10g and IBM's DB2 UDB, Kline said.

"One of SQL Server's big advantages is ease of use and even that is being challenged," Kline said. "People are saying they're taking a shot with Oracle because it's easier to use."

Despite an interest in Oracle building, the first two beta versions of SQL Server 2005 have SQL Server DBAs excited about the next version, Kline said. The next version has improved business intelligence tools and enhanced memory management components, he added.

"I think this release for Microsoft is critical because of the pressure Oracle is putting on it, but also because of the challenges open source pose," Kline said. "The user community expects big things from the next release and, if Microsoft delivers, it will survive the intense competitive pressures it faces."

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