Microsoft Getting a Bigger Slice of Database Pie

More large-database users are turning to Microsoft technology.

As the absolute size of corporate and government databases continues to swell, more users are turning to technology they previously didnt consider for very large databases: Microsoft Corp. and its DBMS and Windows.

A study by the Winter Corp., released last month, identifies the worlds largest, most heavily used databases and finds that Windows has grown from less than 20 percent to more than 40 percent in OLTP (online transaction processing) in operating system usage from 2001 to 2003. The increase narrowed the gap considerably between Windows and the Unix and IBM z/OS mainframe operating systems.

But the study, according to company officials and users, is indicative only of a concerted effort by the Redmond, Wash., company to bolster its database and OLTP products and capabilities.

Experts say sustained efforts by Microsoft to increase scalability across Windows and its SQL Server 2000 have enabled the company to inch toward multiterabyte OLTP systems in Windows.

Tom Rizzo, Microsofts SQL Server product manager, said a growing number of the companys customers are running large databases on SQL Server 2000, including Verizon Communications Inc., which has 5 terabytes of capacity in a database for its billing and customer information.

"It shows how SQL Server 2000 can scale. We expect Yukon [the next version of SQL Server, due late this year] to scale even better," Rizzo said.

SQL Server users, such as Brad Alford, a member of the SQL Server Group, in Charlotte, N.C., said that over the last few years Microsoft has instituted a "dramatic change" in its database storage and management techniques to address scalability hurdles.

Alford said he expects the new online index option in Yukon, allowing database administrators to create, rebuild or drop an index, to suit impending database growth.

"When [users] get into terabytes in an OLTP system, you have to very much pay attention to maintenance in databases," said Alford. "Yukon online indexes rebuild, and thats very big in large databases because if you archive, you move [data] from a primary database to another ... potentially creating fragmentation."

As databases continue to grow in storage capacity and performance, the expansion will have tremendous significance for users and impact the practices they use to adopt, operate and maintain larger databases, according to Richard Winter, president of Winter, in Waltham, Mass.

"There are users out there [whose database size] requirements exceed the capabilities of products today," said Winter. "My sense is that type of phenomenon is increasing."

To account for database capacity stretching current boundaries, Winter said that not only are companies storing more data but that theyre also analyzing it more deeply and "slicing and dicing" it to better understand customer patterns.

In fact, according to Winter officials, study respondents expect their peak workloads for DSS (decision support system) to increase threefold by 2006.

Microsoft is taking steps to address this increase, as the Winter study showed that Windows-based database size, particularly among DSS databases, is quickly rising.

The Winter study examined 20 categories focusing on OLTP and DSS. Metrics used to determine winners included database size; normalized data volume; number of rows, records and objects; and peak workload activity. For peak load activity, the study examined the highest number of transactions per second for OLTP, while for DSS the highest number of concurrent, in-flight queries was analyzed.

The company with the largest database size for all operating environments, including Unix, for the DSS portion was France Telecom S.A., with 29.2 terabytes. France Telecom uses Oracle Corp. for its DBMS.

In the Windows comparison for database size, ComScore Networks Inc. secured the top spot with 8.9 terabytes for its database. ComScore relies on Sybase Inc.s Sybase IQ as its DBMS.