Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

Summary: In Best Paper award winner at the latest Conference on Innovative Data Systems Research, Microsoft researchers present an innovative scale-out database architecture. Will this be the product that Microsoft launches against Oracle?


In a great paper at the latest 5th Biennial Conference on Innovative Data Systems Research (CIDR '11) Microsoft researchers present an innovative scale-out database architecture. Will this be the product that brings Oracle back to earth?

The trick It's an old strategy: bleed the profit out of your competitor's cash cow. Microsoft's been trying with SQL Server with some success, but it can't handle the big enterprise jobs that Oracle RAC and, to a lesser extent, IBM DB2, own.

Partly, that's due to SQL Server's Windows-only status. But it's also due to the limited scalability of SQL Server. Failover clusters are fine as far as they go, but that isn't very far.

With the Sun acquisition, Oracle is moving into the OS market. It's time for Microsoft to return the favor.

Stalking horse? Hyder is a transactional record management system that runs on top of an RDMS, like SQL Server. And there's no complex - and costly to manage - lock management and load balancing of today's clustered DBMSs. Hyder uses a different, simpler process that relies on high speed flash storage.

It offers good linear scaling. Need more throughput? Add another server.

Coordination is handled across the datacenter network by logging update intentions to a central, flash-based log. Each server handles its own updates and checks the log to ensure there are no conflicts.

No lock manager. Load balancing is as simple as directing the next transaction to the least-busy server.

(For a deeper intro to Hyder architecture, check out Hyder: a flash-based scale-out database).

The play Enterprises run Unix/Linux servers because they're robust and flexible - especially for big database apps. What if Microsoft could offer a highly scalable database product that ran on commodity boxes from HP and Dell?

One less reason to run Linux. One more reason to buy Windows.

But what about that log server? It could be a big server or 2 loaded with flash DIMMS. While there is room for custom performance enhancements, Hyder could run on commodity servers.

The Storage Bits take Competition is a good thing - and Oracle could use some. Microsoft has a healthy datacenter footprint and if Hyder were productized it would leverage and expand Microsoft's presence.

Dave Cutler, the brilliant DEC engineer who joined Microsoft and led the Windows NT effort, doesn't like lock managers - he'd seen the problems with DEC's VAXclusters - and prefers shared-nothing architectures.

Hyder's architecture goes a long way towards meeting those objections. And it does it on standard Windows.

There's a larger dynamic. As computer performance improvement slows - see Moore's Wall - every vendor needs new avenues for growth. Which is why Cisco is taking on HP and Dell in servers, Oracle bought Sun, and EMC snapped up Data Domain and Isilon after cornering the virtual server market with VMware.

Microsoft should pile on, giving Oracle/Sun a good whack, while strengthening its datacenter position, especially in the nascent private cloud market.

That said, Hyder is a research project, not a product. Database users are conservative, so Microsoft would need to make a long-term commitment.

But this fundamental rethinking of scale-out database architecture is the sort of innovation that Microsoft should embrace - and does, if you believe their PR. I hope they do, but I'm not holding my breath.

Comments welcome, of course. Here's a link to the Best Paper award winner paper: Hyder – A Transactional Record Manager for Shared Flash by Philip A. Bernstein & Colin W. Reid of Microsoft and Sudipto Das of UC Santa Barbara.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Data Centers, Data Management, Hardware, Microsoft, Oracle, Servers, Software, Storage

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  • Hadoop/HBase

    Aren't both Oracle and SQL Server largely obsolete as the world moves to NoSQL Databases such as HBase which is part of the Apache Hadoop project? Neither Oracle nor MS can scale anywhere near these newer technologies.
    • RE: Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

      NoSQL databases are a growth area garnering a lot of attention. But like many new technologies they do not replace the old tech. Instead they enable new apps not feasible before.

      Most NoSQL databases are not suitable for transaction processing, for example. Typically, they scale well, but at the cost of weak consistency or availability.

      On the other hand, no RDBMS can scale the way Hadoop does either. There's room for both.

      Robin Harris
      • RE: Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

        @Robin Harris <br><br>"no RDBMS can scale the way Hadoop does"<br><br>Robin, this really doesn't make sense.<br><br>The relational model is a model for the representation of data based on sound mathematical principles (predicate logic and set theory).<br><br>Scalability is an implementation issue, representation is a model issue.<br><br>Saying an RDBMS isn't scalable is a bit like saying multiplication isn't scalable because the only tool you have is a mechanical hand cranked calculator.
    • I don't want to abandon relational

      @Stephen.Smith@... <br><br>The relational model is a sound mathematical model for the representation (not the storage!) of data. <br><br>I see no viable alternative in sight. It would take a mathematical revolution to replace the relational model.<br><br>The promising way forward is improving relational implementations.<br><br>Hyder looks interesting.<br><br>Most* NoSQL technologies on closer inspection actually look old compared to relational.<br><br>I don't see Hadoop as innovative.

      *But not all - improving relation implementations also means dumping SQL. SQL != Relational...
  • Yes...

    ...but FAIL!
    • Plenty of what ifs!

      A research paper is going to lead MS into RDBMS domination;-)

      It would be nice to see the MCSEs getting their little SQL Server clusters working for a start before they talk about taking on the real work.
      Richard Flude
      • RE: Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

        @Richard Flude - thanks for your permission to get started on building even larger, more dynamically scalable database systems Mr. Flude.

        Since all our MSSQL DB clusters are working perfectly (with astonishingly little effort too) and we've thoroughly tested and practiced major disaster recovery procedures, we're glad to know that you've given us your blessing to work on distributed DB farm. We're so lucky to have you.
      • RE: Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

        @bitcrazed: don't bother with Flude, he's a delusional idiot who knows little. Don't shake his mediocre world too much with your experience or he can go more crazy than he is now
  • no way!

    M$ is toast
    Linux Geek
  • RE: Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

    I do not see MS making significant gains anytime soon. It is actually more likely for them to loose market share.

    "In 2010 Soliant Consulting undertook a survey to determine the total cost of ownership for several popular database management systems. They found that over a three-year period Microsoft SQL Server 2008 cost $642,274 for 200 users. By contrast Oracle cost only $499,058 over the same period. "

    And yes, cloud DBs are a threat to the traditional vendors, though not directly competing.
    • RE: Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?


      A survey? How scientific is that? Who was surveyed? Sure Oracle still has the market, but SQL Server has been gaining ground on them since 2000.
      • RE: Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

        @bmonsterman <br>Says who? Business analysts? Please...<br>As for the TCO studies- I agree, they are mostly vaporware, MS knows best this as they designed one to show how Linux has higher TCO than Windows. Still, things like that are used by executives to push "solutions" they for some reason like.
  • Microsoft has been doing a good job of tripping over it's own feet

    Don't expect that to change anytime soon. They've been a "me to" follower the last ten years.
  • MSSQL is winning the war.. currently

    Oracle has been losing significant ground for several years and is now basically living on existing installation where they charge masses for 'support' as they aren't making anything like the new business they used to. MSSQL outperforms Oracle in most metrics and is significantly cheaper to buy and manage as it comes with an amazing suite of tools, all of which you need to buy for Oracle. Our company is moving to MSSQL and dropping Oracle, many companies we've talked to are doing the same thing. It takes 1.5 people to manage our Oracle Datawarehouse and 1 MSSQL DBA manages 10 seperate large scale MSSQL installations, several with clustering.. it's a no-brainer.. the Oracle faithful are evangelists who need to wake up and smell the humus.

  • Why would anyone use Windows on an enterprise class database server?

    "Enterprises run Unix/Linux servers because theyre robust and flexible - especially for big database apps. What if Microsoft could offer a highly scalable database product that ran on commodity boxes from HP and Dell?<br><br>One less reason to run Linux. One more reason to buy Windows."<br><br><br>You've got the cart pulling the horse.<br><br>SQL Server would not only have to be better than the competing databases to push a move to a more expensive inferior server OS, it would have to magnitudes better...<br><br>In the server room reliability is EVERYTHING, and Microsoft has never excelled in reliability... I wouldn't run windows on my enterprise servers if it was free.
  • Comm

    BTW, big DB Linux environment do run on commodity boxes from HP and Dell. We have quite a few.
    In addition, MS would have to compete with MySQL and Postgres, which are growing exponentially.
    And of course there is the big if. For now this is just a fishing expedition. Who knows, maybe they could come up wit a robust server and environment and a great DB platform. For now this is not the reality.
    Linux has the momentum and Oracle the marketshare.
  • RE: Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

    Linux is rock solid and it's free forever! I agree with WZROBIN microsoft=downtime=wasted$$$ Why would anyone pay for something that breaks when they could get the same thing that doesn't break for free.
  • RE: Will Microsoft tackle Oracle?

    Stick with (FOSS) Open Source!