SQL Server and the VLDB: Playing with the Big Boys

The Winter Corporation recently released the list of the winners of its 2005 Winter TopTen Program (http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=14F28:285886 ). This survey of the world's largest and most heavily used databases is a veritable Who's Who in the very large database (VLDB) space that reveals who's pushing the boundaries of what's possible with today's technology. I was pleased to see the strong growth and adoption of SQL Server among the biggest of the big in the VLDB space.

The winners list isn't a benchmark in the sense of a TPC-style score, but it's interesting to peruse the results. Unlike a TPC score, the systems that the Winter Corporation profiles are genuine production systems, so in some ways, it's more instructive about what's possible in the database world than a TPC benchmark list might be.

The 2005 survey shows SQL Server gaining market presence in the VLDB market. No, SQL Server didn't land the grand prize for biggest-of-the-big in the data-warehousing space. Microsoft's biggest data-warehouse system weighed in at 19.5TB, which was only about one-fifth the size of the 100TB monster that Yahoo is running with an Oracle back end. But 19.5TB isn't something to sneeze at, and it's eleven times larger than the biggest entry running on SQL Server in 2003. Similarly, SQL Server didn't win biggest-of-the-big in the OLTP space; it landed the number-six spot with an 8TB entry that was about one third the size of the largest OLTP system, which runs on IBM DB2.

But SQL Server did score third in the list. Across the board, SQL Server achieved 23 winning entries in Winter Corporation's various TopTen categories, a five-fold increase since 2003. And Microsoft swept the top spots for both OLTP and data warehousing workloads for systems running on a Windows platform. In the past, other vendors beat Microsoft on its home turf, which had to be a bit embarrassing.

SQL Server has taken many years to earn industry respect and be accepted as a trusted platform for the largest enterprise systems. SQL Server isn't at the top of the pack yet for VLDB customers, but with strong showings in all of Winter Corporation's TopTen categories, chances are that SQL Server is strong enough for anything you're planning in your organization.

On a completely different note, I was surprised to see that a 24TB Linux/Oracle combo in the data-warehousing workload category actually topped the largest Microsoft entry of 19.5TB. I don't mean to suggest that Linux is more capable than Windows. But I can remember back a few years ago when folks laughed at Windows as a viable platform for the high-end enterprise, and I know many people today who feel the same way about Linux. The 2005 Winter Survey seems to establish Linux as a viable platform for the VLDB space and as a competitor to be taken seriously.

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