Sean McCown isn’t afraid of controversy. He assured me of that when I interviewed him last week in preparation for this column. So when the InfoWorld contributing editor referred to DBAs (database administrators) who favor open source databases as “tree huggers” who don’t want to pay for commercial software, I can only assume he knew what he was in for.
In a statement sure to enflame the Slashdot crowd, McCown went on to apply the back of his hand to open source databases in general. “Open source and commercial databases aren’t even close,” he says. “I just reviewed MySQL 5.0 for InfoWorld, and -- despite many improvements -- its management capabilities, tools, and functionality simply don’t match up with Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, or Sybase.”
Now, McCown knows databases. A senior DBA and author of the blog Database Underground, McCown just finished an in-depth review of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (“SQL Server bulks up”). He has been noodling with SQL Server 2005 for nearly two years, since before it went into public beta, and he came away greatly impressed.
SQL Server’s prime competitor, Oracle, has held an edge among the largest enterprises, which demand bulletproof disaster recovery and zero downtime. With this release, Microsoft has caught up. Along with major changes to the code itself, McCown points out, the new SQL Server brings one other advantage to the party: .Net.
“.Net gives SQL Server a huge piece of new functionality,” McCown says. “Oracle has Java, which extends its functionality by providing direct access to system and network resources.” .Net performs the same function for SQL Server, effectively closing that loop on Oracle. “The open source guys can’t even begin to touch that,” he adds.
Yep, we’re back to open source again. But is McCown being fair? For a second opinion, I checked in with InfoWorld Senior Editor Neil McAllister, author of the online Open Enterprise column. “Core database functionality is no big deal; PostgreSQL gives you an enterprise-class, standards-compliant database engine for free,” McAllister says. “But commercial vendors provide value-added features -- replication, clustering, management tools, advanced SQL features, and that sort of thing,” which some large businesses can’t live without. For everyone else, these features are merely “frosting.”
McCown sees it differently. “It’s getting harder to say what’s standard functionality and what’s frosting,” he says. “Still, why would a business go with an open source database?” -- especially now that Microsoft and Oracle have released free, if somewhat restricted, versions of their products.
Guess it depends on how much you like frosting … or trees.
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