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SQL Server Knockoffs

By Steve Jones,

This editorial was originally published on Mar 17, 2009. It is being re-run as Steve is away at the SQL Intersection conference.

I thought this was an interesting post from John Dvorak on the Microsoft business model. I'm not sure it's the end of Microsoft, after all, many corporations would not go with non-standard software since it might cause compatibility issues, and the cost of the software might be noise compared to all the questions, complaints, and potential retraining of employees.

But that could change. And I think that Microsoft is in a bit of a downward spiral. One of their main products, Office, is essentially done. What more can you do to those applications that people need? Even Outlook hasn't really added much value for a few versions. Most of us view these types of products as commodities, and a few more features don't really add a lot for us.

Even the OS is starting to disappear a bit for many people. We live our lives in applications, on the web, or with applets, like Twirl or TweetDeck, that really interact with the Twitter service. Twitter is really what matters, not the OS or even the application I am using.

So what about the relational database? Are we heading down the road of the RDBMS becoming a commodity? Right now SQL Server, Oracle, and DB2 all constantly strive for a good amount of feature match between them. Each comes up with something new in each release, but how many of these new features are compelling? Already I think a lot of people are perfectly happy with SQL Server 2000, and the only reason to move is because of support.

What if we get to the point where a MySQL or PostgreSQL type knock-off that runs T-SQL comes along and implements 80% of what SQL Server 2005 has. Would people switch to that engine? I don't think people would completely convert their environments, but what about the 20% of your servers that are barely used, or are used for homegrown applications? If I sold you a "SQL Server knock-off" for $500, would you buy it instead of the $1895 for SQL Server Standard? What if it wasn't priced by the CPU?

I think SQL Server is the best RDBMS around right now, from a feature standpoint, price, performance, and support. Sure it has bugs, sure it has issues, but overall it's a great database at a great price. It has ETL features, reporting, and most importantly, an extremely well performing database engine. However I can see someone trying to enter the market as a competitor in this space, just like the "netbooks", hyperspace and the ThinkOffice suite are trying to do to general business applications.

After all, it's easier to "copy" an application than innovate, and I think at some point the list of copied applications will go beyond Word and Excel.

Steve Jones

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