Oracle Challenge To SAP Nets Response: We Like SQL Server - InformationWeek

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11/21/2005
01:38 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Oracle Challenge To SAP Nets Response: We Like SQL Server

When Oracle went into the applications business, did it foresee how the move could affect its database business? Reading between the lines of Microsoft's recent SQL Server 2005 launch, maybe it underestimated the impact.

When Oracle went into the applications business, did it foresee how the move could affect its database business? Reading between the lines of Microsoft's recent SQL Server 2005 launch, maybe it underestimated the impact.For example, during a Nov. 7 event in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kept referring to how well SQL Server could shoulder the workload of the largest SAP applications. SAP, of course, is the application supplier that Oracle has singled out as its primary competitor.

Oracle officials have heard SAP talk up SQL Server before and they shrug it off. There are plenty of Oracle database sales powered by the uptake of SAP applications, they say. At Oracle OpenWorld in September, Oracle officials said Oracle was the No. 1 database running at SAP installations. Yes, but will that be true in five years?

SQL Server is growing up and taking on much heavier workloads than Microsoft skeptics anticipated a short while ago. Richard Winter, president of the Winter Corp., says SQL Server is showing up with twice the frequency of two years ago in his survey of 170 of the world's largest databases. Five years ago, SQL Server barely had a toehold on the list. So let's look at the subtext of that SQL Server 2005 launch again. When Steve Ballmer talked about SQL Server's transaction processing capability, the point he made was that it had been benchmarked as being able to handle 93,000 concurrent SAP application users, or 10 times the number of the largest known workload on a SAP-connected database.

Personally, I find it quite a coincidence that the benchmark came in at 10 times the largest known SAP workload. That 10X margin seems to provide the right amount of assurance to dubious SQL Server prospects. But I stray from my original point. SAP helped Microsoft conduct the benchmark.

As Microsoft developers worked on revisions to SQL Server 2005, the new builds were tested against SAP every day, said Paul Flessner, Microsoft's senior VP of server applications. That's because compatibility with SAP was paramount. The engineering teams of the two worked together to ensure that SQL Server was putting its best foot forward.

"As you can imagine, SAP is a little more interested in working with us" than they used to be, said Flessner in an interview Nov. 7. Every time SAP makes an application sale, its sales force will vouch for SQL Server as qualified for the job, if the installation is going in on Windows. Flessner said 70% of SAP implementations are now being installed on Windows servers, and that opens the door to a SQL Server sale.

That won't erase Oracle's presence in support of SAP applications. The companies that already use Oracle will want to leverage their existing expertise rather than take on a new database.

But Oracle's frontal challenge to SAP in applications is netting some fallout. What might have been a barrier to SQL Server uptake for a while longer--the doubt that it was equal to the task of supporting the most demanding ERP applications--is being hoisted aside by the biggest player on the block, SAP itself.

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