Microsoft Corporation announced last week that it had beaten the "Million Dollar Challenge" offered to it by Oracle Corporation. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, whose company makes a popular line of database servers, promised to pay anyone $1 million if they could prove that Microsoft SQL Server wasn't at least 100 times slower than Oracle. The challenge was based on Oracle's score of 71.5 seconds on a standard query benchmark.

Well, Microsoft not only met the challenge, but it actually came in with a better time than Oracle, with an incredible score of only 1.075 seconds. Microsoft SQL Server group product manager Doug Leland notes that the Oracle solution used in the test costs over $100 million. Microsoft's solution, which was about 70 times faster, cost less than $500,000.

"On its face the Oracle challenge seemed credible and fair," says Leland. "But it was a loaded deck. To put Oracle's offer in any kind of perspective, you had to understand the minutia of benchmark deadlines and database creation. All in all, it was a very clever ploy on their part."

Microsoft's solution included a Hewlett Packard NetServer system with four 450 MHz Pentium II Xeon processors, 4 GB of RAM, and 560 disk drives connected by nine RAID disk array controllers. SQL Server 7.0 Enterprise Edition, SQL Server OLAP Services, and Windows NT Server 4.0 were the software used.

"The old school of thought was that data warehousing had to be difficult and expensive to be useful," adds Microsoft's Doug Leland. "What we've demonstrated very clearly here is that the innovations of the Microsoft business intelligence platform make it possible to accomplish the same business tasks with equivalent performance to Oracle for a fraction of the price. That shows tremendous customer value."

Suspiciously, Oracle's offer was quietly pulled on February 22nd.

"Microsoft has had more than three months to respond to the challenge and we haven't heard a word from them," said Jeremy Burton, vice president of Server Marketing at Oracle. "This is because SQL Server 7.0 is years behind in data warehousing technology; they have yet to publish a single TPC-D result. Any customer considering SQL Server should have serious concerns about their failure to demonstrate performance in the critical data warehousing space"