SQL Server To Recapture NT RDBMS Lead

Calling Microsoft Corp.’s SQL Server 7.0 "in many ways a brand new product," the market analysis firm International Data Corp. (IDC, www.idc.com) predicts Microsoft will recapture the lead in revenue from databases for the Windows NT platform.

But that lead could be short-lived. In the same bulletin, "Microsoft Aims High and Low: SQL Server 7.0 Assaults NT RDBMS Market," IDC finds that the product’s confinement to the Windows NT platform and its lack of future-oriented features, such as Web enablement and complex data-type support, could limit SQL Server’s time at the top.

"SQL Server 7.0 represents a quantum leap in features and functionality over SQL Server 6.5," said Carl Olofson, a research director with IDC’s Database Management Systems research program, in a statement. The product sets new standards in ease of use and low administration and has overcome problems with scalability and reliability, according to IDC.

Microsoft released the upgrade of its flagship database in mid-November with one of the company’s most substantial marketing campaigns of the last few years. The previous month, IDC published its annual analysis of RDBMS revenue and shipments. For Windows NT, Oracle Corp.’s databases surpassed Microsoft in 1997 for the revenue lead. Microsoft retained the lead in units shipped. Sales of Oracle, which holds a huge lead in RDBMS license sales on Unix, tended to favor larger sites and systems that used a mix of Windows NT and Unix servers, IDC found. Microsoft’s sales were concentrated in point solutions for departments and smaller organizations. Results for 1998 are not yet available.

IDC predicts strong sales in the first two quarters of 1999 will help SQL Server 7.0 retake the NT RDBMS market lead. There are, however, potential obstacles to a SQL Server sales surge in the short term, and the product faces significant roadblocks to market leadership in the long run, according to IDC. "Its key vulnerability is the fact that so much of the product is essentially brand new," Olofson says. The top-to-bottom rewrite of the software may scare off new customers, and the requirement for complete data conversion could also give version 6.5 users pause. Meanwhile, Oracle8i and IBM Corp.’s DB2 Universal Database, both of which focus on the Internet and scale onto Unix, pose significant long-term challenges for Microsoft's database, IDC says.

Market Share of RBDMS on Windows NT

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