Is Microsoft's SQL Server really cheaper than Oracle?

Let's compare database costs based on per-CPU licensing

Is SQL Server really cheaper than Oracle? That’s a question that the vendors themselves have manipulated back and forth for many years now.  However, there’s really no debate because the short answer is, Damn right it is.  Oracle can spin the numbers any way they want, but the truth on the ground is that Microsoft kills Oracle in pricing.  At work I manage both the SQL Server and the Oracle DBAs so I deal with licensing on both sides and the quotes we get from Oracle are always considerably more than the ones we get from Microsoft.

I recently wrote a piece on the new release of SQL Server 2008 R2 (R2 for short) where I chastised MS for their cut-off point for Enterprise vs. Datacenter.  In that piece I said that I was completely against them cutting Enterprise edition off at 8 CPUs because there are plenty of enterprises out there with boxes with more CPUs than that.  And I stand by that statement because currently they’ve got more customers running Enterprise edition than they’ll ever have upgrading to R2 under the new SKU division.  The reason is simple… barring the price increase of going to R2, nobody is going to also do a SKU upgrade to Datacenter just to get a few BI enhancements.  And btw, R2 has also picked up some bugs that weren’t present in the previous version so it can also be a dangerous upgrade if you’re not careful.  So anyway though back to the topic at hand.  There’s no way MS is gonna get people to shell out the 60K/CPU for Datacenter just for the bragging rights of being on R2 because you can’t upgrade from Enterprise to Enterprise R2 if you’ve got more than 8 CPUs.

That said though, I do think MS is setting up pricing for the future.  I was at TechEd recently talking to one of the MS guys and he pointed out to me that while he agrees that currently the SKU-point is a little low, we’re starting to see 16 and 32 core CPUs on the market which will definitely help offset the cost because SQL Server is still licensed per physical CPU.  I’ll also add that R2 supports 256 physical CPUs.  So a little bit of math shows us that if you paid list price for R2 Datacenter on a completely maxed-out box with 256 CPUs, you’d pay $15,360,000.  For those of you who aren’t that good with commas, that’s 15million and change.  Sounds like a lot of money huh?  Well it is, but if you compare it with Oracle’s licensing which is about $45K/core, you get something completely different.  Let’s take that same 256-CPU scenario and apply it to Oracle Enterprise.

If you’ve got 256 CPUs each with 2 cores, that’s 512 cores total so the math works out to a total of $23,040,000.  So that’s 24 million, right?  Ok, but let’s take a look at the future and throw in one of those 16-core CPUs.  Let’s say that you’ve got a 256 16-core box.  Now the sticker price is $184,320,000.  Yes, that’s 184 million!  Now the 15 million for SQL Server isn’t looking too bad is it?  I’ll let you do the math on the 32-core CPUs.

So to even try to compare Oracle with SQL Server in price is just ridiculous.  There are some very limited instances where Oracle can beat MS in pricing, but it’s rarely anything you’d ever see in the wild.  So it’s really time for all you Oracle guys out there to stop bending the numbers so much by throwing in these ridiculous parameters that make Oracle seem less expensive.  And trying to justify the cost with features doesn’t work either cause all of those features you tout (Advanced Data Guard, etc) are 3% features that hardly anybody uses.  There’s no argument that Oracle beats SQL Server in rich features.  P-SQL has more features than T-SQL and Oracle simply has better high-end features for HA and DR.  That said, most people don’t need a lot of those features especially when you see how expensive they are.

And you SQL Server guys out there complaining that MS raised the price for R2… well, they haven’t raised the price of SQL Server since 2005 that I know of and the cost of living has gone up considerably since then so a price hike was inevitable wasn’t it?

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