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Microsoft Puts SQL Server in Line With Rivals on Backup Databases

By Marc L. Songini
June 7, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft Corp. last week began letting SQL Server users who have Software Assurance contracts set up fail-over databases at no extra cost, a new policy that some customers said could give Microsoft an edge over Oracle Corp.

Microsoft last month announced that it would no longer charge Software Assurance customers for backup database servers, provided that the systems remain off unless the main database crashes or is corrupted and that they aren't used for processing on a regular basis.

Previously, users had to pay a variable fee to install a backup SQL Server database for disaster recovery purposes, said Sunny Charlebois, a product manager in Microsoft's worldwide licensing and pricing group.

"Our customers have told us that disaster recovery is an issue that matters to them," said Charlebois, who wouldn't disclose the earlier fees. She added that Microsoft's licensing policy now is "consistent with the competition."

Both Oracle and IBM, Microsoft's main database rivals, said they don't charge users extra for so-called cold-backup servers. However, Oracle limits the use of fail-over databases to 10 days per year, after which users have to buy a full license.

Weighing the Options

Tessco Technologies Inc., a Hunt Valley, Md.-based vendor of wireless products, uses both Oracle and SQL Server. But Hal Kuff, Tessco's systems and network manager, said he will consider directing future purchases toward SQL Server because of the new fail-over policy.

For example, Tessco's IT staff is re-examining a plan to run a new supply chain application on an Oracle database.

"The Oracle test and disaster-recovery license model appears to be significantly more rigid," Kuff said. "We're wondering why Oracle is not taking a superior position in pricing." Tessco could save money by going with SQL Server, Kuff said, although he declined to estimate how much.

Jim Prevo, CIO at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. in Waterbury, Vt., said the new approach on SQL Server might entice him to sign up for the Software Assurance program. Green Mountain runs both SQL Server and Oracle databases but is consolidating on Microsoft's technology. The licensing change "validates our decision to roll out all new platforms on SQL Server," Prevo said.

Ultimately, both vendors handle the configuration of cold-backup servers in much the same way, said Charles Garry, a Meta Group Inc. analyst. But he added that Microsoft's new policy seems to be more lenient than Oracle's.

Jacqueline Woods, vice president of global pricing and licensing strategy at Oracle, said Microsoft's move merely brings its fail-over policy for SQL Server in line with Oracle's. Woods said it's unlikely that an Oracle database would crash unless a major disaster brought it down, and she added that it shouldn't take more than 10 days to bring a primary database back up.

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