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Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Vs. Oracle: Customers Voting

Despite licensing cost increases, early-mover customers give upgrade to Microsoft's flagship database the nod on affordability compared to Oracle and IBM offerings.
SQL Server 2012 As BI Platform

We didn't break out our database satisfaction scores by brand, but by all accounts Microsoft SQL Server has gained share in recent years on the strength of its competitive cost. That's particularly true for data warehousing and business intelligence deployments, where SQL Server's build-in Integration Services, Reporting Services, and Analysis Services, along with front-end options including SharePoint and Office Excel, have helped fuel market share gains in recent years.

When digital ad services firm Havas Media started planning a BI deployment two years ago, the promise of employee and customer self-service is what clinched the choice of SQL Server over BI alternatives from MicroStrategy and Oracle, according to Tony Jaskeran, head of BI at the London-based firm. In particular, he says, the combination of Microsoft's PowerPivot in-memory add-in for Excel and Excel Services lets the firm share analyses and reports with customers through the SharePoint portal.

"We don't have a large information services team, so we wanted a technology that would give our business users ownership of the data with an ability to build their own reports," Jaskeran explained.

Havas initially deployed on SQL Server 2008 R2 early last year, but by fall it was testing SQL Server 2012, hoping to exploit new column-store compression capabilities. Havas completed a three-month migration of its production data warehouse to SQL Server 2012 in March.

The Havas deployment, which is used to track search and impression clickstream data, is big and destined to get bigger, as it's currently analyzing data from only two of 10 ad servers. The database already holds 100 terabytes of data, and the firm is adding 300 million new rows of data each day. That's an impressive scale that would have been hard to sustain on 2008 R2. Jaskeran says SQL Server 2012 upgrades including columnar compression have contributed to a 25% improvement in ETL (data loading) and query performance, compared to Havas' 2008 R2 deployment.

Havas also plans to exploit Power View, an in-memory data visualization interface introduced in SQL Server 2012, but the firm has just started to experiment with dashboards based on the technology.

To get all 10 ad servers online and handle long-term growth, Jaskeran says Havas will likely need to upgrade to the SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) edition, but that's not in the plan or the budget for this year, he said. PDW provides an option to scale out by exploiting massively parallel processing.

One SQL Server 2012 migration caveat from Balitsky: check the database compatibility of your third-party apps before assuming you can migrate. Virginia Beach wants to take advantage of SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn high-availability features with as many applications as possible, but Balitsky said most of the city's third-party applications that run on SQL Server have yet to be certified on new database.

We're only one week into the general availability of Microsoft SQL Server 2012. It could be a year before an anticipated wave of migrations really gets rolling.

Our State Of Storage 2012 report highlights promising new technologies that aren't yet on most respondents' radar and offers advice as you plan your 2012 storage strategy. (Free registration required.)