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Microsoft Raises Database Stakes At Low End

Vendor is under pressure from Oracle, IBM, and open-source products
Facing tougher competition from rivals Oracle and IBM, as well as from open-source databases, Microsoft fought back last week by expanding its aging SQL Server 2000 line with a new workgroup database and disclosing feature and pricing details of its long-awaited SQL Server 2005 release, code-named Yukon.

Microsoft has steadily gained database market share against rivals Oracle and IBM since the late 1990s. But recently those two vendors have begun fighting back with entry-level products targeting small businesses and departments. Meanwhile, open-source databases such as MySQL increasingly are presenting attractive alternatives to budget-minded IT execs. "Customers are more cost-conscious and are looking for more low-cost database deployment options," says Noel Yuhanna, a Forrester Research analyst. A Forrester survey of 45 companies conducted last year found that just over half of them were considering adopting open-source database technology.

Last year, Oracle cut the price of its Oracle Database 10g Standard Edition One by $1,000 to $4,995 per processor or $149 per named user. Microsoft's new SQL Server 2000 Workgroup Edition has a price tag of $739 per server, which includes five client licenses. Microsoft also offers a pricing option of $3,899 per processor for customers that want to support many users.

SQL Server 2000 Workgroup Edition is an entry-level alternative to the SQL Server Standard and Enterprise editions. Workgroup Edition is designed to run on one- or two-processor servers but won't be able to take advantage of four-way servers, says Tom Rizzo, SQL Server product-management director. Microsoft includes with Workgroup Edition the same management tools it offers with the Standard and Enterprise editions, allowing small organizations to have systems with high availability and protections against data loss. The inclusion of technology such as failover clustering and reporting in SQL Server's base price makes SQL Server the least-expensive product to buy and operate compared with Oracle's and IBM's offerings, Rizzo says. He also says that unlike Oracle and IBM, Microsoft won't charge for a second license for a database that sits idle for backup-and-recovery purposes.


Enterprise: Unlimited CPUs, DB Snapshot, Report Builder, $24,999 per processor or $13,499 for server and 25 client licenses

Standard: Four CPUs, database mirroring, failover clustering, OLAP, reporting servers, $5,999 per processor or $2,799 for server and 10 client licenses

Workgroup: Two CPUs, backup log, $3,899 per processor or $739 for server and five client licenses

Express: One CPU, simple management tool, free

Note: Higher-end editions include all functions of the versions below them.

Data: Microsoft

The SQL Server 2000 version of Workgroup Edition will have a fairly short life span, however, given that it and the rest of the SQL Server line will be upgraded to SQL Server 2005 sometime this summer. Microsoft originally planned to ship the new SQL Server release in 2004, but the development schedule has slipped.

Among the improvements in SQL Server 2005 are backup-log and data-snapshot features for automated data recovery and new reporting capabilities.

Cascade Designs Inc., a hiking- and camping-equipment maker, operates its business with J.D. Edwards OneWorld applications running on SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition. The age of the database technology hasn't limited the company's IT operations in any way, CIO Ken Meidell says. But he's looking forward to seeing how Microsoft improves the built-in reporting and data-analysis capabilities that Cascade Designs uses a great deal.

Just how soon Cascade Designs can adopt SQL Server 2005 will hinge on how quickly Oracle--which acquired the J.D. Edwards applications when it bought PeopleSoft--ports those applications to the new Microsoft database. "Which," Meidell says, laughing, "makes me a little nervous."