Microsoft gears up for launch of SQL Server 2005

With the launch of its new Microsoft SQL Server 2005 in November, Microsoft Corp. hopes to boost its market share and finally confront its major competitors head on, in the high-end, multi-functional database business.

SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006 will officially launch on November 7.

“[Our database product] historically had a glass ceiling, so we took that glass ceiling and blew it away,” said Andrew Lees, corporate vice-president, server and tools business, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp.

Lees, who was recently in Toronto for the Microsoft Collaboration Roadshow, was referring to Microsoft’s current database server, SQL 2000, which may have lacked the sophistication that other players in the database market have been offering. According to him, although Microsoft was selling “more databases than IBM and Oracle combined” it only accounts for 20 per cent of the company’s revenue.

SQL Server 2000 may have been an “excellent” entry level product, specifically for small and medium sized enterprise, but it lacked the capacity to grow with the organization, said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research.

“If you are a fast-growing small enterprise, you knew at some point you would exceed SQL Server 2000’s ability to support you. If you needed (database) clustering or mirroring, moving off of SQL Server 2000 or integrating into it was either very difficult or completely impossible,” said Levy.

Microsoft hopes to change that with the new SQL Server 2005, which Lees says is packed with new and enhanced functionality, which includes business intelligence, support for 64-bit and multi-core processors, and an “always online” feature. According to Lees, Microsoft offers a comprehensive package that can compete with database giants, Oracle and IBM.

Lees said while Microsoft could claim the largest number of installed databases, that only translated into just 20 per cent of the database spend. The reason, he said, is that costs of high-end database products are astronomical. “We’re going to undermine that.”

Along with SQL 2005, Microsoft will also be launching the new Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006. Lees said the Visual Studio 2005 development tool has been designed to work with SQL Server 2005.

The Microsoft executive said this new functionality would enable users to develop applications faster as the tools are pre-integrated.

The company is banking on SQL Server 2005 as the foundation of its application development strategy, according to Levy, so customers would have “a one-stop shop” for all the tools they need to develop, maintain, support applications and build databases.

Microsoft would capitalize on its pricing strategy to get a bigger market share and, hopefully, lure Oracle and IBM customers to migrate to SQL Server 2005. Lees said Microsoft “has always been cheaper” than the competition.

He said contrary to Oracle’s pricing structure, which tends to charge more as features are added onto its database products, Microsoft will have one flat price for an enterprise edition. “Normally, in any other business, the bigger you get, the cheaper it becomes per unit. That is not true on Oracle, but that is true with (Microsoft).”

Microsoft also plans to encourage migration from Oracle to Microsoft’s database server by making the appropriate tools available. Recently, Microsoft began providing a free, downloadable database migration toolkit dubbed, SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA), which enables Oracle users to convert their database to SQL Server, Lees said.

Since the beginning of October, Microsoft has recorded over 800 SSMA downloads from the company’s Web site.

In addition, SQL Server 2005 has been designed for compatibility with Oracle databases in an effort to further boost the migration drive from Oracle to SQL, said Lees.

Although purchase price does not hurt the total cost of ownership (TCO), it is only a small percentage of the TCO, according to Levy. But by leveraging on its entire development environment to support SQL Server 2005 Microsoft could positively affect a company’s TCO.

“Your developer (now) has much less running around to do, much less switching between different tools, much lower training requirements and they obtain the benefits across the board,” said Levy.

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