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Blue or Red? SQL or Oracle?

By Justin Hostettler-Davies (c) 2007


SQL or Oracle - an experts comparison

One city � 2 major footballing giants Everton & Liverpool
Which camp do you sit in? And why?

Let�s call Oracle - Liverpool and Everton � Microsoft SQL Server (in terms of leading database suppliers, where IBM can be Tranmere!!)

I support Everton FC, they may not �officially� be the most-supported team but they do have many good players and a very bright future.

The following paper attempts to persuade the reader to become a true blue (a Bill Gates fan) over a loyal red (a follower of Larry Ellison�s army).

Would a born�n�bred Everton fan be converted to follow the reds � very doubtful indeed! Same can be said about converting RDBMS. DBAs can become fanatical over their chosen supplier, this article state the case for SQL Server over Oracle.

Just like Liverpool fans, Oracle DBAs can be very vocal in their defence for their beloved Oracle RDBMS, but the MS SQL Server users among us are just as devoted.This article does not aim to ridicule the opposition supporters or cause any riot of any kind. It is simply, my own personal judgement on why I believe MS SQL Server to be the optimal choice of RDBMS.

Why Blue is Best!

Liverpool FC used to be the leading football team in England, it�s not anymore.

Oracle used to be the No 1 DBMS on a Windows platform, it�s not anymore.

SQL Server has been the fastest-growing DBMS for the last 3 years. It recently overtook Oracle as the No. 1 DBMS on Windows. There has to be some good, solid reasons why more and more businesses are opting for the SQL Server route.

The reason is simple: SQL Server is a quality product that meets most business needs most of the time, at a low price (compared to other major DBMS vendors that is!) As SQL Server seems to be growing in uptake and popularity, Oracle's market share is steadily being eaten away for the inverse reason: It is a premium product with high-end features that relatively few businesses need and will ever need in the future.

There is no real fair way to compare MS SQL Server to Oracle � different football teams play different styles, different formations and have differing fortunes in certain areas.

Similarly with cars, comparing a posh new BMW to a Ford Mondeo. No one disputes that Ford makes very good, reliable cars. Yet many drivers would prefer to pay for the bells and whistles that a BMW provides. (And yes I am a Ford car owner too!)

An investment in a RDBMS marks the start of a long & important journey for your business, and I'd feel safer travelling with MS SQL Server.

SQL Server has a well-earned reputation for its easy installation, self-tuning capabilities, graphical administration, integrated business intelligence and extensive collection of help wizards.

The price-performance ratio is better than Oracle, IBM & Sybase; for example, Oracle 9i Standard Edition is three times more expensive than SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition. And let us be honest here, the price can be a major factor in the initial decision-making process.

I�ve had recent experience with both MS SQL Server and Oracle, it does seem as though only in recent versions, such as 10g, Oracle decided to compete in the arena of self-administration and user-friendly appearance etc.

Some would say Oracle is a notoriously expensive and complex RDBMS. The argument is a strong one, again because Oracle does contain a lot of, in my opinion, unrequired functionality. Would a football team spend millions of pounds on a player, if they had no intention of using him? (Chelsea & Ballack aside that is!) Here are some major plus-points:

It�s cheaper!



Oracle or SQL Price Comparison

Compare pricing for SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (which include OLAP and Data Mining) and Oracle9i Enterprise Edition with OLAP and/or Data Mining:



Oracle or SQL Price Comparison

Note. This is not a full price comparison between SQL Server 2000 and Oracle 9i Database. It is only a brief comparison and may be outdated at time of reading. You can have many discounts and the prices can be increased or decreased in the future. See Microsoft and Oracle to get more information about the price of their products.

Scalability

SQL Server can theoretically support exabyte-level databases, using either the scale-up or scale-out methods. Workload benchmarks also show SQL Server can handle all but the most extreme throughputs: A single server can support more than 250,000 active users and a 32-node cluster can process 700,000 transactions per minute. I think you would agree this should more than cover your requirements!

Availability.

With built-in log shipping, online backups, failover clusters and native support of virtual servers, very robust applications can be built with SQL Server. Tests have proven that SQL Server offers 99.99% availability � which is equivalent to less than 10 minutes per month of downtime. Is that enough availability for you?

Security.

Because of its strong-arm tactics in the past, Microsoft products will always be major targets of hackers. Nonetheless, SQL Server holds up well against this onslaught. It features role-based security for server, database and application profiles; integrated tools for security auditing, tracking different security events and additional sub-events; plus support for sophisticated file and network encryption, including SSL, Kerberos and delegation. SQL Server has been certified by the federal government's C2-level security certification - the highest level of security available in the industry. You�ll find that many of these features are available only as extra-charge options in Oracle 9i, and only for enterprise edition!

SQL Server's Achilles' heel has always been and remains the operating system: Windows. But Windows will always be around and will always continue to be developed, making it more secure and more attractive to mission-critical environments.

The future continues to look bright for SQL Server. We have been promised new functionality, including real-time BI, a new integrated suite of management tools, database mirroring, integrated .NET and much more. All delivered in SQL 2005 & forthcoming SQL 2008.

So are Everton the greatest football team around? � I would say yes, having supported them for over 25 years. In truth, as we currently sit, we�re not world champions - but like many other teams - have the potential to become great.

But is SQL Server the "best" RDBMS out there? Clearly, it has been proved more than adequate for my current employers and our current databases (of which come in all types of size and criticality). Clearly it is also proving good enough for many businesses. The current positioning in the market, combined with a reasonable price, has led to its rapid rise. Oracle's "premium price for a premium product" approach may be appropriate for the extreme high end, but in this economic climate, it has proved deadly.

Everyone will have their own opinion on the varying SQL dialect between SQL Server & Oracle. The dialect supported by Microsoft SQL Server 2000 is called Transact-SQL (T-SQL). The dialect of SQL supported by Oracle 9i Database is called PL/SQL.

I�ve heard people say PL/SQL is a more powerful language than T-SQL. The beauty for me though, being a non-programmer, is that the graphical user interface that SQL Server Enterprise Manager (2000) and Management Studio (2005) offer, allows me to plod my way through my tasks with minimal need for any SQL dialect.

There are also different database limits such as basic database name size and column name sizes, as well as more obscure & �irrelevant� limits such as the no. of allowed recursive subqueries!! Most businesses don�t need to worry about these complexities � especially if like me most of your databases support third-party written applications.

Again, I�ll need to state here that my �best� is clearly that � it has been defined as my �best� because of what I have been able to get out of it and what has been required of me, as a DBA and by my company.

Every company is different and has differing objectives and responsibilities - "best" must be defined in the context of what you need out of your RDBMS, the costs versus your budget, and of course the availability of affordable DBAs like us!! You might not want to support a successful football team who sit comfortably in the top six each year � where�s the nerve-tangling drama in that?! You may like a rollercoaster and support Everton like me����..

To summarise below are my SQL Server Plus-Points:-

  • On the Windows platform SQL Server is the proven best (www.tpc.org)
  • Easier to install, use and manage
  • Cheaper (3 times cheaper in some instances!)
  • Extra facilities �in-the-box� such as DTS, Transact SQL, OLAP & DataMining etc

No doubt, arguments will continue to rage and the debate will continue as future enhancements aim to out-battle each other. MS SQL Server is a cost-effective, robust and industry-proven solution to many business needs � and will continue to be so ����

And who knows? Everton for the Champions League in 2010 ?

Justin Hostettler-Davies BA (Hons), MCP, MCTS, MCDBA, OCP

Justin Hostettler-Davies (JHD) has 10 years DBA expereince in a cross platform environment specialising in both Oracle on Unix and SQL Server on Windows. JHD has spent most of his career supporting mission critical applications for an Emergency Response organisation in the UK. JHD has kindly agreed to write a series of articles in which he will share some of his most valuable experiences with us!


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