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High-end version of SQL Server 2008 R2 'late to market,' analyst says

A parallel data warehouse edition is due out next month

November 22, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Analysts have muted expectations for the parallel data warehouse (PDW) edition of SQL Server 2008 R2 that Microsoft is scheduled to ship next month.

PDW is based on technology from the company's acquisition of DATAllegro two and a half years ago. Microsoft announced plans to start shipping the product earlier this month at its Professional Association for SQL Server Summit event.

PDW is designed to run on massive parallel processing systems and is targeted at large multi-terabyte data warehouse applications. It will be offered as an integrated data warehouse appliance running, initially at least, only on Hewlett-Packard servers. In the future, Microsoft plans to release similar PDW appliances based on hardware from other partners, including IBM, Dell and Bull.

According to Microsoft, a typical SQL Server 2008 R2 PDW appliance will feature up to 22 processors per rack and cost upwards of $841,000, or more than $38,000 per processor.

That kind of configuration and pricing for a single system is unusual for Microsoft and puts it in the same high-end territory as IBM, Oracle and Teradata in the market for massively parallel data warehouse technologies. But whether it will make any big impression is an open question.

"PDW is late to market," said Merv Adrian, principal at IT Market strategy. "Microsoft is behind in functionality compared to some of [the other vendors]." The fact that the technology will only be available at first on HP servers is also disappointing, he said, especially considering Microsoft's delay in getting PDW out the door.

Another factor is that Microsoft doesn't own the entire platform, unlike its competitors, Adrian said. "So keeping it current will be a challenge as its partners change their hardware."

According to details provided by Microsoft, PDW will scale from tens to hundreds of terabytes and will come integrated with Microsoft Business Intelligence tools as well as tools for data management and for streaming data. Despite the high price for a 22-process system rack, PDW will offer enterprises a low cost of ownership, with prices starting at around $13,000 per terabyte, including hardware, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft's PDW will be one of the petabyte scalable databases on the market, said James Kobielus, an analyst with Forrester Research. "You can build out PDW to a grid or cloud of appliances that collectively operates as a single data warehouse," he said.

"Microsoft wants to sell a lot of these and they want to address larger deals" that vendors such as IBM, Oracle Teradata and Netezza have been snatching up, he said.

Microsoft's planned pricing of $13,000 per terabyte of raw data, positions PDW well for small to mid-market customers as well as large enterprises, he said. Products from most of the other vendors in the space currently start at around $20,000 per terabyte, though that price should soon start dropping, Kobielus predicted.



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