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SQL Server Heads to the Workgroup, Gets a Price Increase

Microsoft's oft-delayed SQL Server 2005 family of products will finally ship mid-year, the company said this week, but it will bring with it a new product lineup and higher prices. For starters, Microsoft is adding a Workgroup Edition of SQL Server. But that product won't wait for SQL Server 2005. Instead, Microsoft is launching SQL Server 2000 Workgroup Edition this spring, ahead of the SQL Server 2005 launch.

"The industry has changed since we introduced SQL Server 2000," says Microsoft senior vice president Paul Flessner. "With the new SQL Server 2005 product line, we've increased the breadth of our data management solutions to offer more choices to customers. We're now better equipped to offer solutions that meet the technological and budgetary requirements of our customers. Our goal is to make enterprise-class data management and analysis affordable to a wide range of customers while driving complexity out of database systems, all at a lower total cost of ownership."

The SQL Server 2005 product family will be comprised of four editions, including Express Edition, Workgroup Edition, Standard Edition, and Enterprise Edition. The Express Edition will be free and aimed at developers. The new Workgroup Edition is "database only," lacking the reporting services, business intelligence, and other features in the higher-end versions; it targets small and medium-sized businesses. Standard Edition is described as a "complete data and analysis platform" that is aimed at medium-sized businesses. And the Enterprise Edition provides a foundation for mission-critical business applications of any size.

SQL Server 2005 pricing might be controversial, as Microsoft is raising prices on the Standard and Enterprise Editions. SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition jumps to $24,999 per processor, up from $19,999 with the SQL Server 2000 version. Standard Edition, meanwhile, is limited to four processor servers but now supports 64-bit processors. This product is seeing a 20 percent price hike as the per-processor price jumps to $5999.

To counter issues with the price hike, the new Workgroup Edition will be sold for $3899 per processor, though that product caps out at two processors and 3 GB of RAM (there is no RAM limit on Standard Edition). Microsoft also notes that SQL Server 2005 offers an amazing array of new functionality when compared to its predecessor, further justifying the price increase. And, it should be noted, SQL Server pricing still generally undercuts that of similar products from Oracle or IBM.

To support the new SQL Server 2005 products, PC giant Dell says that it will bundle SQL Server 2000 and 2005 Workgroup Standard Editions with its PowerEdge servers, machines that are aimed and small and medium-sized businesses. Dell also announced a new price/performance benchmark for TPC-C using SQL Server 2000 Workgroup Edition on its servers. The new record of $1.40/tpmC is a 10 cent improvement from the previous record, which utilized SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition.

Finally, in related news, Microsoft representatives revealed this week that the company is considering whether it should make the source code to SQL Server 2005 available to its customers. This being Microsoft, the code would not be open sourced of course, but would rather be released under the terms of the company's more restrictive Shared Source program. But it's interesting to see Microsoft try and make its products more transparent in the face of open source threats such as MySQL and PostgreSQL.

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