A Battle Royale

When Microsoft’s SQL Server, version
7, was released in November last year, Oracle had put on its web site a document
describing why users should look at the product-as pariah. Detecting a responsibility
toward the end-user to clear the air, DATAQUEST solicited answers from Microsoft India.
What follows below are statements made by Oracle, available in the web document, about its
products-mostly Oracle8i-and the inadequacy of Microsoft’s product strategy and SQL Server
7. Positioned adjacent are replies, explanations and counter charges from Microsoft’s
Sanjiv Mathur, Product Manager, SQL Server, as told to Arun Shankar, Executive Editor.


Oracle On Vendor Risk: Microsoft’s core competency is in the development of desktop and
operating system software. From both a technology and business perspective, the company
has only recently entered the data management space, and has so far gained little
credibility. The demands of enterprise computing are in direct conflict with Microsoft’s
business and technology model. Microsoft largely owes its success to the continual
obsolescence and upgrade of client software, and the widespread propagation of its
hardware and operating systems. Success in the enterprise space calls for effective
utilization of existing data investments and the consolidation of server resources.
Oracle, on the other hand, has more than 20 years of experience in providing solutions for
customers. Databases aren’t browsers. A company’s data is its most valuable asset, and
Microsoft can’t expect to flood the market and gain credibility overnight.

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: Oracle is
trying to use the old party line that Microsoft is a desktop company and does not
understand enterprise computing. Microsoft’s core competency is writing great software.
Its products run the communication networks of the world’s largest corporations like GE,
Boeing, Lockheed, Bosch, BaaN, PriceWaterhouse Coopers and Compaq. SQL Server 7 runs
Microsoft, a $14-billion company. It also runs mega corporations like Pennzoil, Barns
& Noble, CBS Sportsline, LA Cellular, Elcor Corp etc. To say that Microsoft does not
understand enterprise computing is to ignore Boeing and GE as the largest corporations
worldwide. Oracle is suggesting that the second largest relational database company in the
world [Microsoft], has hardly any experience in enterprise data management.

In recent years, Microsoft has made a difference to the database industry. ODBC made
client server an open, vendor independent architecture. Microsoft Transaction Server made
it possible for a developer to create middle-tier transaction objects. Microsoft Visual
Studio is a widely used set of database front-end tools today. Visual Interdev defines a
new level in database computing for the web. OLE DB holds the promise to redefine the way
clients will access data stores. SQL Server 7 is poised to take data warehousing to new
levels of usage. All this has been happening in the last 10 years.
Today’s businesses are decentralizing, and have flat and independent workforces. They’re
doing this to make faster decisions by making information available to everyone,
everywhere and everytime, and at lower costs too. Technology must enable this new model by
being available to everyone, everywhere and everytime, plus at lower costs. Oracle’s model
works in the opposite direction by centralizing all information in one place.

Oracle On Architecture:
Microsoft operates in the distributed nature of a client server architecture, which
results in unnecessary cost and complexity. Oracle has found a better answer in the
internet. In the multi-tiered architecture of internet computing, centralization
simplifies the deployment and maintenance of applications as well as the management and
backup of data. Oracle’s ability to have all data and documents stored in a few
high-performance databases benefits customers.

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: Oracle’s
internet architecture defies evolution. Client server evolved because centralized systems
were proprietary and too expensive to buy and maintain. Today’s businesses are looking for
decentralized information stores to enable faster and better decision making, and to
decrease the risk of failure. Oracle is working in exactly the opposite direction. In
1997, NT sales exceeded the sum of all Unix and NetWare sales combined, suggesting an
overwhelming preference for distributed systems.

Oracle has never been known to provide easy-to-use products. Its business model is built
on complexity. For a company that earns 50% or more of its revenue from support and
consulting, simplicity is a threat to one of its major revenue streams. The industry’s
experience with NCs has proved that there is no merit in lower TCO with centralized
systems. Oracle is just repositioning the centralized server concept. This is the same NC
approach being presented from the other end.

ORACLE ON OPENNESS: SQL server
runs on Windows only. Microsoft’s proprietary strategy is aimed at locking customers into
a Microsoft-only environment which restricts customers freedom to take advantage of
innovation and price competition in other vendors’ products. Oracle runs on all major
platforms, including Windows, and fully supports all industry standards. With Oracle8i,
the operating system will essentially become irrelevant. The ground-breaking capabilities
of Oracle8i’s iFS provides a single, easy-to-use data management interface for all data
types, thus minimizing customers’ reliance on a proprietary operating system like Windows.

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: We offer
SQL Server as the database option to customers who choose Windows NT. The success of
Windows lies in its openness. Today, almost every major application is available on NT,
including Oracle. In fact, there are more applications on NT than there are on any other
single operating system.

Oracle is ported across many operating systems. Portability is not openness. Openness is
about interfacing with other technologies. Oracle is a single product company that cannot
offer the level of integration that a multi-product vendor like Microsoft can. SQL Server
integrates with NT, Exchange, Internet Information Server, Office, Visual Studio,
Transaction Server. Oracle Financials runs only on Oracle, Designer/2000 CASE Tools works
only with Oracle, Developer/2000 is optimized only for Oracle. There is an element of
contradiction on Oracle’s support for Windows, since in the same breath it claims a lion’s
share of the Windows RDBMS market.

Oracle claims Oracle8i will make the OS redundant. Firstly, Oracle8i needs an OS to run
on, and that OS will have a file system anyway. So why do we need the iFS? Will the user
now have to start up the database to find word processing files? Oracle is now talking of
Raw Iron as well. Will the OS in Raw Iron run web servers, mail servers, application
servers, and file and print services? If not, then does the user need to use other OSs to
run those services?

ORACLE ON SCALABILITY: SQL
Server 7’s immature parallel implementation and concurrency models raise concerns about
the product’s ability to handle growing user populations and data volumes. Oracle provides
scalability in two ways:

Oracle Parallel Server extends the capabilities of Windows NT by enabling a group of nodes
to share workload across a cluster. While Oracle provides cluster solutions that provide
high availability and high scalability, Microsoft provides clusters for fail-over only.
According to a report by Gartner Group, Microsoft will not have a scalable cluster
solution till the year 2001. Oracle has this capability since 1997.

Since Oracle is an open solution, customers can move their system to Unix or another
operating systems, should Windows NT fail to meet their needs. SQL Server’s marriage to a
single platform means that when customers hit the ceiling with Windows NT, they have no
option but to abandon their system and move to a new database on a new platform.

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: On
Windows NT, SQL Server 7’s TPC-C benchmarks on SMP systems (parallel processing systems)
are consistently better than Oracle’s. Oracle has a scalability problem with transaction
processing systems on NT. That is the reason they claim that NT does not scale. Over 90%
database users use single servers, and not clusters. On NT, SQL Server 7 has the best
benchmarks for SAP R/3 (2400 SD users), BaaN (3,500 BaaN ref users) and PeopleSoft (5,700
HRMS users). These benchmarks meet 95% scalability needs of SAP, BaaN and PeopleSoft users
worldwide. Oracle appears to have a scalability problem on NT, not SQL Server.

SQL Server 7 has a comprehensive concurrency model covering row, page and table level
locking. SQL Server 7 intelligently escalates or de-escalates locks. Oracle only supports
row-level locking. Both Oracle and SQL Server 7 support fail-over clusters for two nodes.
This ensures high availability. Oracle Enterprise Server additionally supports load
balancing on three nodes on NT. SQL Server 7 will support multi-node clusters with load
balancing when NT 5 (Windows 2000) ships in 1999, not 2001 as Oracle suggests. However,
Oracle’s load balancing technology has limited application support. None of the major
applications vendors, such as SAP, BaaN or PeopleSoft, use Oracle’s load-balancing
technology on any platform.

Scalability is about running on the smallest-to-largest systems, handling large databases
and thousands of users. SQL Server 7 meets over 90% of the scalability requirements of
SAP, BaaN and PeopleSoft in their most demanding environments. Oracle is talking about
scalability in the remaining 10% of the space. Even in that space, the top 4-5% requires
scalability which Oracle cannot provide.

ORACLE ON PERFORMANCE: Based on
audited benchmark results by the Transaction Processing Council (TPC), Oracle provides far
superior performance over SQL Server 7. As of November 1998, Oracle is the record holder
of TPC-D and TPC-C benchmarks on Windows NT. In fact, Oracle’s NT TPC-C results are almost
two times faster than Microsoft’s. Microsoft has never posted a TPC-D result, suggesting
that despite supposed improvements in SQL Server 7, it is still not appropriate for data
warehousing applications. Oracle also has record benchmarks for SAP, Baan, and Peoplesoft.
By consistently demonstrating performance leadership in both official benchmarks and
real-world situations, Oracle has proven it can handle the workload requirements of even
the most demanding data warehouse and OLTP applications.

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: The table
below debunks Oracle’s claim that they are faster, let alone two times faster than SQL
Server 7. All benchmarks are on Oracle 7. Oracle has not benchmarked Oracle8 on any system
with less than 12 processors. Does this mean that Oracle8 only performs when you give it
12 processors or more? Oracle’s best TPC-C benchmark on NT is 27383 transactions per
minute, which was achieved by Oracle8 on a cluster of six Compaq Proliant Servers with a
total of 24 processors. In other words, Oracle8 requires six times the processors and six
servers put together to achieve 1.3X the performance of SQL Server 7 on a single server.
Oracle’s best TPC-C benchmark is 10,25,41 transactions per minute on a cluster of 8
Digital Alpha 8400 servers with 12 processors each. In other words, Oracle8 requires 24
times the processors and eight times the servers to achieve five times the performance of
SQL Server 7 on a single server. Both the 6 server Compaq cluster and the 8 server Alpha
8400 cluster are in the realms of fantasy. No practical application runs on such clusters.
Most practical applications run on single servers and Oracle8 is a poor second on TPC-C
performance with SQL Server 7.

SQL Server 7 does not have a TPC-D result (Decision Support benchmark used for data
warehousing). The council that conducts this benchmark is shortly releasing a new version
of this benchmark. Microsoft will not publish a benchmark that will be obsolete in a short
period. SQL Server 7 will publish a TPC-D benchmark when the new specification is
available. SQL Server 7 holds the record for SAP, BaaN and PeopleSoft benchmarks on
Windows NT. These benchmarks represent the needs of 90% of users of these systems
worldwide. Oracle’s record on Unix systems is almost as irrelevant as its TPC-C benchmarks
on the 8 server, 96 processor Digital cluster.

ORACLE ON SECURITY: Global data
access brought on by the advent of the internet has also increased potential security
risks. The security demands placed on a database have never been greater, and yet SQL
Server 7 has no authenticated security certifications of any kind. In contrast, Oracle is
the only database certified against the ISO standard at the best assurance level. Oracle’s
advanced security features allow for enforced granular privileges, advanced auditing,
enhanced access control, secure distributed processing and replication, and the ability to
use additional external authentication mechanisms. SQL Server has few of these features.
With Oracle products, enterprises can inexpensively embed true integrated security within
business systems.

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: Security
is indeed a major issue. Operating systems are subjected to more rigorous security testing
than databases are, and SQL Server takes the fullest advantage of operating system
security. SQL Server 7 uses a two-fold approach, where it first uses operating system
security and then its own security model. It can do so because SQL 7 works on NT, and can
therefore be tightly integrated with operating system security, which is much more robust
than database security. Oracle cannot use this approach because it has to run on several
operating systems. This means that Oracle will have to provide operating system-level
security within its database. Oracle is therefore duplicating what the operating system is
already doing. This opens the debate about whether the company provides all the security
features available on all the platforms it runs on or not. SQL Server 7 is in the process
of acquiring a C2 certification, a security specification given by the US defense
agencies. NT is C2 certified and SQL Server 7 is in the process of getting it shortly.

ORACLE ON EXTENSIBILITY: With
integrated management of text, images, audio, video, and geospatial information,
Oracle8i’s interMedia enables customers to take advantage of the multimedia nature of the
web. In contrast, Microsoft SQL Server 7 lacks built-in support for most non-traditional
data types. Instead, Microsoft has advocated a strategy of storing non-traditional data in
flat files in separate servers and linking them together using OLE-DB. Integrating the
wide variety of data types found on the web using this strategy results in a complex,
insecure, high-maintenance mess that lacks transaction integrity.

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: Oracle
views extensibility as the ability to store multiple data types in a database. Oracle does
not see extensibility to other application areas. SQL Server 7 exceeds Oracle in
extensibility by integrating with:

* ODBC data types

* Extended data types including image, sound, video

* Using data warehousing features through Excel, use Access to build client server
solutions

* Java, C++, Basic, Xbase and internet development tools in Visual Studio

* Clustering and Message Queuing services of NT

* NT security, thread management, performance monitor and application log, tunable
parameters

* Commercial Internet Servers

* MAPI: database sends email to users based on events, email user queries database through
email, database publishes reports to public folders

* TAPI: database can participate in telephony applications

* System management server

* Internet Information Server: query database through web pages, publish information to
web pages, replication via the internet

* Transaction Server: interact with components created with any third-party tools

ORACLE ON OPERATIONAL
SIMPLICITY: Making the database easy- to-install, use, and manage-collectively known as
operational simplicity-is vital in an organization’s efforts to reduce costs. SQL Server 7
lacks the database management features required for sophisticated database systems. For
example, Microsoft requires the use of separate management tools for SQL Server 6.5 and
SQL Server 7 For ease of installation, Oracle uses a Java-based utility that provides
everything needed to get a pre-tuned and pre-configured Oracle8i database up and running.
Oracle8i makes major improvements in usability and efficiency with the help of assistants.
Oracle Enterprise Manager provides a single integrated management console for central
administration of multiple servers. Customers can also separately purchase all three or
any one of the optional Management Packs, which provide advanced functionality for tuning
and diagnosing the database and managing complex change in the database environment

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: Oracle8
requires the user to operate upto nine different consoles to manage databases, security,
users on the same Oracle8 database. What would it take to manage two Oracle databases of
different versions? SQL Server 7 uses a single console to manage these requirements.
Oracle requires administrator intervention for the following operational features that are
automatic in SQL Server 7:

* auto configuration

* dynamic tuning

* dynamic memory management

* dynamic disk management

* dynamic locking

Oracle8 ships with a total of five assistants. Each of these can be accessed from
different points in the Oracle8 program group in Windows. SQL Server 7 ships with over 30
wizards, all of them readily available within a single window in the Enterprise Manager.
Other differences:

* Oracle Enterprise Manager is a single console that can manage a maximum of 16 Oracle
servers at a time. SQL Server 7 has no limit on the number of servers it can manage.

* Oracle Enterprise Manager can manage only Oracle databases. SQL Server’s management
console can manage databases, web servers, transaction servers, OLAP Servers- everything
from one single console.

* Oracle’s Optional Management Packs means you cannot perform a number of database
management jobs without investing in these packs first. It means Oracle’s Enterprise
Manager is an incomplete solution. SQL Server 7 ships with all management tasks fully
integrated into the product.

ORACLE ON INNOVATION: According
to Information Week (9/14/98), ‘SQL Server 7 still isn’t a match for its (Oracle’s) OLTP
database competitors even in the economy end of the market: the Windows NT environment.’
Much of the functionality necessary for mission-critical database applications-high
availability, scalability, security, performance-are still missing in SQL Server 7.
Microsoft is simply trying to play catch-up, and it has finally reached the point where
Oracle was 10 years ago.

Oracle has a tradition of technological leadership, and the upcoming release of Oracle8i
is no exception. With innovations such as iFS, Java in the database, WebDB, interMedia,
and WebToGo, Oracle is taking the lead in enabling companies to leverage the benefits of
internet computing. On Windows NT specifically, Oracle has been the clear leader in
extending NT’s capabilities by being the first vendor to release a database clustering
solution on NT, the first to support Very Large Memory (VLM), and the first to bring
high-availability and scalability to NT with Oracle Parallel Server.

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: In
September 1998, SQL Server 7 was in beta testing. Information Week’s statement comes from
a review of an earlier beta. Information on pre-release software can be quite inaccurate
and is evident from current application and TPC-D benchmarks. SQL Server 7 is winning on
these benchmarks from its competitors not only on NT, but even when competing products run
on non-NT systems.

Ten years ago, Oracle was shipping Oracle 6. There was no Windows NT then, nor was client
server in any major stage of acceptance. There was no WWW, and messaging/groupware
applications were not used. Graphical management consoles, visual database tools, wizards
for administration, dynamic management and configuration, row-level locking, replication,
and distributed transactions were not seen in databases those days. These are just some of
the features of SQL Server 7, which Oracle never possessed ten years ago. There is no
common ground, on which these products can be compared.

File systems have existed since operating systems have existed. What innovation is Oracle
making by putting a rudimentary file system into its database when all operating systems
have also been doing exactly the same thing for years? Innovation is when new concepts
like automatic database and memory management are introduced, as in SQL Server 7. Dynamic
management will reduce administration headaches and make deployment viable in many more
situations. That is a more tangible benefit, than having a file system in a database.
WebDB, interMedia and WebToGo are technologies with perhaps remote benefits. A comparison
of Oracle8 with Oracle8i will show few additional database features. Between SQL Server
6.5 and 7, there are hundreds of new features. To position multi-node clustering as an
innovation is also wrong.

Multi-node clustering has existed for years, and Oracle has ported one of their products
onto NT. That is not innovation. It’s porting.

ORACLE ON TECHNOLOGY RISK: SQL
Server 7 is essentially a complete rewrite. The product has experienced continuous delays,
and has had a very lengthy beta cycle, which may indicate development problems. A Gartner
Group report (8/98) stated, ‘The reengineering of the engine is sufficiently deep that we
recommend the product not be deployed in large-scale production applications until or
after mid-1999.’ As stated in a Giga report (3/98), ‘SQL Server still has much to prove.
Scalability, reliability, multi-user performance, cluster exploitation, and support for
object features are issues.’ One specific risk factor is the issue of reloading the
database. Due to changes in underlying data structures, Microsoft will require all SQL
Server 6.0 and 6.5 sites to unload and reload data-a process that can take days. Further,
Microsoft has already admitted that there will be backward compatibility problems between
SQL 6.5 and 7. With SQL Server 7, much of pre-existing underlying 6.5 code will have to be
rewritten to utilize new features like row-level locking and distributed joins. Companies
should be wary of putting their productivity and their information at risk.

With Oracle, there is no risk. Oracle8 has been released for over a year and is deployed
at hundreds of customer sites. Nearly 90% of Fortune 500 companies use Oracle products and
services. Customers should ask themselves why should they take a risk with a new and
unproven SQL Server 7 when a reliable and superior Oracle8i is available.

MICROSOFT’S REPLY: Oracle
claims there is no risk with Oracle8, but it is the future Oracle8i, they are comparing
with SQL Server 7. The iFS of Oracle8i is a completely new feature. The new data storage
and access methodologies to access iFS data are also new and proprietary. With SQL Server
7, Microsoft is releasing the fifth version of its database. With Oracle8i, Oracle is
releasing the first version of its iFS.

SQL Server 7 is the foundation of Microsoft’s data management strategy for the next
decade. Microsoft tested this product for much more than simple database tasks, such as
its suitability for data storage in future email systems, operating systems, desktop
systems. SQL Server 7 has gone through a bigger beta cycle than any version of Oracle
ever. Microsoft tested this product with 1,00,000 beta testers worldwide. SQL Server 7
already runs the world’s largest online database and the world’s largest SAP R/3
installation on NT, and there are already 300 applications available on it. 1000 customer
databases of version 6.5 migrated without a hitch-that should describe how simple it is to
migrate from 6.5 databases. Oracle makes an issue out of this, but ships an Oracle7 to
Oracle8 database migration assistant with Oracle8.

Oracle 8i has many new
features-with iFS at the center. Oracle talks about ‘Raw Iron’, a 1980’s style idea of the
database computer. With all this new technology, and no real plan for it, there is a
greater risk with this technology than with SQL Server 7.

ORACLE IN CONCLUSION: SQL Server
7 is being released almost two years later than originally planned. During that time, the
battle over which vendor has the best database solution on Windows NT has already been
fought and won by Oracle. Since 1996, Oracle has been the market leader on Windows NT.
Over the past four years, Oracle has enjoyed an astounding 2,000% revenue growth on NT.
During this time, Microsoft’s revenue marketshare on NT has actually gone down 27.8%
(Dataquest Inc. 10/98). A 1998 AMR study shows that 52% of database license revenues
within the ERP market went to Oracle in 1997, compared to just 5% for Microsoft SQL
Server. In fact, out of 3,200 of SAP NT installations, 70% are on Oracle, and only 20% on
SQL Server (Windows NT Magazine 1/98).

With its latest database upgrade, Microsoft is where Oracle was 10 years ago with Oracle6.
SQL Server 7 is still years behind Oracle8i and has serious issues in the areas of
scalability, architecture, functionality, security and extensibility that prevent its use
for mission-critical applications.


MICROSOFT REPLIES: Oracle
has not benchmarked Oracle8 (TPC-C) on systems with less than 12 processors. The reason-on
smaller systems, Oracle8 does not perform. Therefore, how can Oracle8 be called scaleable,
if it doesn’t perform on anything but the largest systems? SQL Server 7 has better
performance benchmarks with SAP, BaaN and PeopleSoft on NT than Oracle does. On the types
of systems used by 90% of the users worldwide, SQL Server 7 beats Oracle8 in most ways.
SQL Server 7 is a more scalable product across systems of all sizes-it does not gloss over
product defects through extensions like OracleLite and Oracle8i.

An 8-user license of Oracle8, Enterprise Edition costs above Rs4 lakh, while a 25-user
license of SQL Server 7 Enterprise Edition costs between Rs2.5 and 3.0 lakh. Revenue share
can be an indicator of marketshare only if revenue realized per license is the same
between the two products.

  SQL
Server 7
Oracle7
Any computer with 1
Processor
3897 2604
Any computer with 2
Processors
10179 5008
Any computer with 4
Processors
20443 6393
Any computer with 8
Processors
16257 4925

(www.tpc.org/new/results/c-db-results.idc)

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

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