Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Oracle, that's who! Have you seen PC Magazine's Editors' Choice for SQL database servers? Readers won't be surprised that the magazine picked SQL Server 7.0 as the best choice for small- to medium-sized businesses with 25 to 300 employees accessing the database.

SQL Server 7.0 won out over all the major relational database management systems (RDBMSs) including IBM DB2 6.1, Informix's Centaur, Oracle 8i, and Sybase Adaptive Server 12.0. SQL Server had strong scores in the obvious areas of:

  • Price/performance
  • Sophisticated engine features
  • Data warehousing and data analysis support
  • Top notch administration tools
  • Overall ease of use

SQL Server was rightfully criticized for its lack of serverside programmability (does anyone really like writing stored procedures—sps—in Transact SQL—T-SQL?) and support for advanced multimedia data types. I hope Microsoft takes these common criticisms to heart as it finalizes plans for Shiloh (the next release of SQL Server).

Now for the best part of the story. PC Magazine had hoped to run a head-to-head performance comparison on identical hardware platforms. You've probably noticed that such comparisons haven't taken place for quite some time because most RDBMS licenses (including Microsoft and Oracle) prohibit the publication of performance benchmarks without explicit permission. Initially, both Microsoft and Oracle agreed to the tests, which were to include online transaction processing (OLTP), reporting, ad hoc querying, and backup speed. Engineers from both companies were supposed to participate to make sure the fight was fair and that their respective databases were properly tuned. However, Oracle decided to back out 1 week before the test, saying it was not Oracle's policy to run arbitrary third-party benchmark tests.

Because Oracle backed out doesn't necessarily mean the company was scared. Maybe Larry Ellison (Oracle's founder, chairman, and CEO) was sure he'd win and simply didn't want to embarrass his good friends at Microsoft? Or maybe Oracle developers read my July 1 SQL Server UPDATE editorial (http://www.sqlmag.com/Resources/ Email/Update/Archive/view.cfm) on database performance and realized that SQL Server is simply the fastest database on Windows NT, with the top 30 price/performance numbers on the TPC-C benchmarks?