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Don Burleson Blog 







Costs of SQL Server vs. Oracle 

Oracle Database Tips by Donald BurlesonAugust 3, 2015

The real costs of SQL Server vs. Oracle

Microsoft and Oracle are engaged in a price war.  Microsoft SQL Server struggles to grow "up" into the midsized database market, while Oracle pushes "down", to server the market for small departmental database systems.

Also see:

As a result, we are flooded with marketing from both sides.   There is some debate in the market about Oracle being too expensive for small users.

Comparing SQL Server to Oracle is like comparing a moped to a Maserati!  Oracle is an order of magnitude more flexible and robust that SQL Server.

There are also concerns about running productions applications on Microsoft Windows, one of the most notoriously unreliable OS environments in the universe.  Oracle's Technical Network forums have hundreds of reports of Oracle failures due to being on a Windows platform.

Here are the costs as of 2015, according to this OTN discussion on Oracle vs. SQL Server licensing costs (unverified cost figures).  Here we see that while Oracle is at least 10x more powerful than MS-SQL, it only costs 3x more than SQL server:

2009 license cost of Oracle 11g Standard Edition

- Per Processor = $17,500
- Support (22%) = $3,850
- Total (Per Processor) = $21,350
- Total (4 Processors) = $85,400

2009 license cost of Oracle 11g Standard Edition One

- Per Processor = $5,800
- Support (22%) = $1,276
- Total (Per Processor) = $7,076
- Total (2 Processors) = $14,152

2009 license cost of SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition

- Per Processor = $5,999
- Total (4 Processors) = $23,996

2009 license cost Cost Ratio:

- Oracle SE to MSSQL SE = 2.56
- Oracle SEO to MSSQL SE = -0.41

But the license costs are just a tiny fraction of the total costs for a database management system. Let's look at the total costs of ownership for Oracle and SQL Server.

TCO of SQL Server vs. Oracle

When evaluating price/performance. Most shops look to TCO (total cost of ownership).  TCO is a better measure because it factors-in the cost of managing the database software and the ease of utilities for performing basic database administration tasks.  Oracle's utilities are second to none, and Oracle was designed from the ground-up to be friendly to the DBA.

When comparing the costs of Oracle vs. SQL Server we must remember that it's not just about features.  SQL Server only runs on Intel, no HPUX, no Solaris, no AIX, nothing "industrial strength", with the exception of the UNISYS ES series monster servers. 

Hence, SQL Server is not appropriate to take a customer all the way as they grow.  A some point, the Intel-based servers become overloaded and they must migrate to Oracle to enjoy the larger server environments.

Oracle guru Jeff Hunter, suggests that marketing studies are largely meaningless, if only because Linux is far more powerful and stable than Windows:

"I can't believe people are actually paid to come up with these numbers. Lets see an apples to apples comparison.

For example, put Oracle and MS SQL on the same hardware on Windows XP (yes, I'm going against my "Never Windoze" philosophy, but last I checked, MS SQL wasn't available on Linux). "

For a more complete discussion of the costs and benefits, see my notes here on Oracle vs. SQL Server.

Administration cost of SQL Server vs. Oracle

The cost of a database is not limited to the sticker price.  It's like buying a horse, the purchase price is just a tiny fraction of what you will spend. 

We have seen that the added features of Oracle make it easier to manage, and it's also been demonstrated that lesser databases like SQL Server cost far more to operate than Oracle.  This study clearly notes that Oracle is cheaper to operate, at a level that more than outweighs any difference in initial licensing costs:

  • DBAs can perform typical administrative functions in 41 percent less time when using Oracle Database 11g compared to Microsoft SQL Server 2015.
  • Oracle Database 11g requires 43 percent fewer steps for the same set of standard RDBMS tasks than Microsoft SQL Server 2015 using Edison's metric for complexity assessment.
  • Benefiting from increased DBA productivity due to lower complexity and higher efficiency cited above, businesses could save up to $33,520.47 per year per DBA by using Oracle Database 11g rather than Microsoft SQL Server 2015.

This whitepaper shows specific examples of DBA tasks which are faster on Oracle.  With the average DBA's salary at $106,000 per year as of 2015, larger shops can save millions of dollars in DBA staffing costs by using Oracle over MSSQL.

See my notes here on the cost of owning SQL Server and Oracle.


You get what you pay for, and, given that Oracle is the worlds most flexible and robust database, I think it's a real bargain at their current prices.  My company also supports SQL server, and the amount of maintenance efforts for Oracle vs. SQL Server are dramatically different.

Despite the hype, most shops I see are migrating from SQL Server to Oracle.  There are even entire books dedicated to migrating to Oracle from SQL server.

Anytime I see comparisons of SQL Server and Oracle that smells of hyperbole in a study, I become concerned about credibility and possible bias. 

In marketing, claims of both Oracle and Microsoft should be taken with a grain of salt.

The quote below caught my eye because it reminded me of an infomercial I saw last night that used exactly the same phrase "That's a savings of more than . . . "

One notable example of being penny wise and pound foolish is adopting a less robust DBMS like MySQL, only to find that you spend 3x more because you need to hire additional DBA's to keep it running. 

Worse yet, you risk lose millions of dollars in business because of unplanned outages.  The bottom line is that both Oracle and SQL Server will work for small shops, but Oracle has a leg-up along many fronts:

  • Oracle runs on every platform from a mainframe to Macintosh.  SQL Server runs on Windows only.
  • Oracle has more robust administration utilities.

In the future, both SQL Server and Oracle will continue to improve, but as long as SQL Server remains a Windows-only solution, they will always be Oracle's poor cousin.



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