The Total Cost of Administration Champ: Microsoft SQL Server 2005 or Oracle Database 10g?

As platforms continue to evolve in the technology industry, a central concern for IT executives is implementing the right systems to maximize the return on each investment. Since labor costs and equivalent outsourced services dominate most IT budgets — over 56% of IT spending on average — selecting platforms with lower implementation and ongoing management costs can significantly improve overall IT efficiency. More important, since innovation is only 10% of the typical IT budget today, reducing ongoing management costs can help you reallocate precious resources and budgets to more innovative tasks and projects — delivering true business value.

One of the most important infrastructure investments is a database platform. Two of the leading choices are Microsoft SQL 2005 and Oracle Database 10g. So, for those seeking to reduce overall costs and reallocate labor investments to more innovative tasks, the obvious question is, "Which has the lower total cost of administration (TCA)?"

To determine the comparative TCA of these platforms, Alinean Inc. conducted independent, in-depth interviews with 100 directors of database administration and senior-level database administrators regarding their database environments, user populations and database administration activities. The results of the survey can be found online (download PDF).

The results revealed that, overall, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 required significantly less effort to install and maintain than Oracle Database 10g. Study participants reported that on average a database administrator could manage more than 30 Microsoft SQL Server 2005 databases, while Oracle 10g implementations required one DBA per 10 databases. On average, the annual cost for administration is $2,847 per year per database for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and $10,206 per year per database for Oracle 10g. That's a savings of more than 350% in annual costs per database for the Microsoft platform.

But was the study revealing a true difference in administrative costs, or just differences that could be attributed to smaller or less mission-critical Microsoft SQL Server 2005 installations? To ensure similar comparisons, the study examined potential differences in the application, load and complexity of the database instances. As expected, the Oracle databases supported more users per database (2 to 1) and larger volume size (3.6 to 1) than the Microsoft databases on average. So it makes perfect sense that Oracle would be more expensive to manage on a per-database basis, but the costs were still slightly higher for Oracle than expected in comparison.

Comparing costs per user supported, we found that Microsoft SQL Server 2005 still has a TCA advantage on a per-user basis, $13.09 per user versus $18.05 per user for Oracle. However, when large-volume databases were examined, Oracle 10g had the lower TCA: $46.76 per gigabyte for Oracle 10g versus $66.58 for Microsoft SQL Server 2005.

Comparing the importance of the database environments, participants reported similar levels of business reliance on the two database platforms, which is somewhat surprising, given the greater size and user populations for the Oracle databases. Even though the majority of Oracle 10g installations were geared more toward transaction-based databases than decision-support databases, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 actually had a slight edge in the percentage of databases classified as mission-critical.

Key Measure

Microsoft SQL Server 2005

Oracle Database 10g

Average number of databases per company



Average number of users per database



Average size per database (gigabytes)



Mission-critical databases



Transaction-based databases



Decision-support databases



Databases supported per DBA



Users supported per DBA



Gigabytes supported per DBA



Annual TCA per database



Annual TCA per database user



Annual TCA per gigabyte



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