Oracle vs. SQL Server face-off: Microsoft SQL cheaper, simpler than Oracle DB

SQL Server expert Denny Cherry argues that SQL Server is better than Oracle Database because it is cheaper, simpler and has a better supportive community.

FaceoffThis is the first in an occasional series pitting Oracle technologies against rival vendors’ technologies. In this faceoff, Oracle Database goes up against SQL Server. Below is the argument in favor of SQL Server. In a separate column, an Oracle user group member argues that Oracle Database is better.

Cost, simplicity and community support aren’t the only reasons Microsoft SQL Server is a better fit for many shops than Oracle Database; they are just three great ones.

Enterprise database cost
One of the strongest points that Microsoft SQL Server has against Oracle is the easiest to explain to your chief financial officer (CFO) -- the cost of the product.  The Enterprise Edition of Microsoft SQL Server costs much less than the Enterprise Edition of Oracle. This becomes even more true when looking at add-in features like table partitioning, compression, online analytical processing (OLAP), and so on. Not to mention that you can only purchase these additional features for the Enterprise SKU.  So if you want to use spatial data on Oracle Database Standard Edition, it isn’t going to happen. Table partitioning is also an Enterprise-only feature for Microsoft SQL Server as well, but it’s included in the price. Let’s look at retail pricing and see exactly how things line up. The prices in the chart below use U.S. Dollars, retail pricing and x64 processors with a CPU licensing model.  Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 are broken out to show the old and new licensing models.

Now that we’ve bought our base server, let’s look at adding some features.  This is for a large system, so we want table partitioning, data compression and OLAP.

Suddenly the cost of the Oracle server has gone up even higher than just the database engine.  The high-end Oracle server in the tables shown comes in at about $6,000,000 retail while the Microsoft SQL Server 2012 comes in at just under $1,000,000.

More on Microsoft SQL Server costs

Read about SQL Server 2012 pricing

Read an older faceoff between Oracle DB and SQL Server, from 2005

Number of knobs to turn
One of the things Oracle loves to talk about is these little knobs to turn so you can fine-tune the Oracle Database engine, such as how it uses memory and what part of the database gets what memory.  Frankly this is too much complexity. As a SQL Server DBA who’s been doing this for the better part of 15 years, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I wished I had this ability to tune the memory to that degree. Microsoft has spent a huge amount of capital ensuring that the database engine allocates the right amount of memory for each kind of memory pool that is within the product. While on occasion is would be nice to be able to adjust the amount of memory that the plan cache has, the fact that most people can’t is probably a good thing.

With Oracle, unless you have an experienced Oracle database administrator on staff who can really tune all the various settings that Oracle has, it can take quite a while to tune the memory configuration just right. Meanwhile, SQL Server just adjusts the memory as needed while the SQL Server is online.

Community support
The SQL Server community is a fantastic way to get help with your SQL Server database.  As a community we take pride in helping those who are new to the platform.  As a community we also take pride in explaining why something is happening so you can avoid the same problem in the future.

When the SQL Server community is mentioned it isn’t just the customers that are included in that grouping. The members of the product group, the Microsoft support team, and the marketing group are all considered members of the community.  Many Microsoft employees spend their off-time talking on Twitter, monitoring the #sqlhelp tag for questions from people.  This also includes some of the top consultants in the industry, who are basically working against their own best interests by providing support for free instead of turning those people into paying clients. Meanwhile, Oracle Support is pricey and often gets bad grades compared to competing vendors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Denny Cherry has more than a decade of experience managing SQL Server, including MySpace.com's over 175-million-user installation. Cherry specializes in system architecture, performance tuning, replication and troubleshooting. Check out his blog, SQL Server with Mr. Denny.

This was first published in April 2012
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