Microsoft Makes Database Play

Microsoft introduced new Windows server software this week, including a new SQL Server 2005 database that is aimed at challenging dominant database vendors and fellow software giants Oracle and IBM.

Microsoft unveiled SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 for developers and enhanced BizTalk Server 2006, claiming the new software delivered “unprecedented integration” between server infrastructure and developer tools. The company said SQL Server 2005 and its database technology, featuring embedded reporting and data analysis tools, would allow reliable management of complex business applications.

Microsoft plays the role of smaller challenger to database leaders Oracle and IBM in that space, but the company clearly sees an opportunity to gain market share while it protects its current install base, according to Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio.

“People have been waiting for this for a long time, so they want to make sure they deliver right out of the box,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Business Info Boost

Microsoft said its SQL Server 2005 would provide integrated data management and analysis for mission-critical information. The company said its latest products build on a foundation of the last few years in Windows Server 2003 and .Net.

“We’re enabling people to gain more insight into their businesses and play an even bigger role in the success of their organization,” said a statement from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

DiDio said the new Microsoft software represented the company’s efforts to retain its current install base, while gaining new customers as well. The analyst noted that the time may be right for Microsoft to steal customers from Oracle, which has focused on a number of acquisitions, particularly that of PeopleSoft.

“This has been a pretty big distraction factor for [Oracle],” DiDio said. “So there is an opportunity for Microsoft. You’ll never see Oracle more distracted than they are now.”

As for IBM, DiDio indicated that they remain a strong competitor, and may likely see the same opportunities as Microsoft.

“Both IBM and Microsoft are thinking this is the best time to take a shot at Oracle,” she said.

Licensing Leverage

DiDio added that databases are an area where more multi-processor and multi-core systems will become more prevalent. Microsoft has attempted to differentiate itself with single-core pricing regardless of the number of cores.

“Oracle looks like they’re charging more,” she said. While that might not cause a customer defection, DiDio said, it might contribute to one, or at least win Microsoft consideration.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting 12 months, because — once again — the big three will be unrelenting as they go after each other’s markets,” DiDio said.

Question of Cores

Gartner research Vice President Martin Reynolds told TechNewsWorld that the licensing policies from the companies, while still not entirely clear for the longer term, will play a significant role in customer decisions.

Reynolds said that Microsoft has emphasized mostly single-core terms, regardless of multiple cores, while Oracle has said it will charge per core. For its part, IBM has said it will charge single-core pricing for dual-core processors, but has not indicated its intentions for quad-core or higher multi-core systems.

“There’s a lot to be resolved in this area,” Reynolds said. “There’s an awful lot of uncertainty, but if software costs go up with cores, it gets to be too expensive.”

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