Microsoft Pitches New Low-Cost, Entry-Level Database Edition

SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition will offer a considerably lower entry point for SMBs.

Facing ever-stiffer competition in the database price wars, Microsoft Corp. is introducing an edition of its upcoming SQL Server 2005 upgrade that will provide an easier step between free and not free than it now does with SQL Server 2000.

Microsoft plans to announce on Thursday SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition, a product that sits between the free MSDE (Microsoft Database Engine, or what will be known as Express in the 2005 release) and SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition.

SQL Server 2005 Standard, once the entry point for businesses to buy SQL Server at the enterprise data management level, will cost $5,999 per processor or $2,799 per server plus 10 users. In contrast, Workgroup Edition will cost $3,899 per processor or $739 for the server plus five users, thus offering a considerably lower entry point for SMBs (small and midsize businesses).

In addition, SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition will cost $24,999 per processor or $13,499 for the server plus 25 users.

In addition, Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., is announcing a tighter relationship with Dell Inc. Dell, which is now a top reseller of SQL Server 2000, will become an OEM partner for SQL Server 2000 Workgroup Edition, SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition and SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition.

Tom Rizzo, Microsofts director of product management for SQL Server, said that both of these moves were spurred by customers who like the free MSDE but found the jump to $5,000 per processor to be too jarring. "Were trying to take enterprise data management of SQL Server and make it affordable and easier to acquire for a broader set of customers," he said. "From SMBs, we heard they wanted a low-cost entry offering. They wanted it free or close to free, so we think what were doing in Workgroup meets the needs of what theyre saying."

Workgroup Edition will ship with 2 CPUs, 2GB of RAM, unlimited database size and the same management tools as other editions, including Management Studio, Import/Export, limited Replication Publishing and Back-up Log shipping.

The repackaging and the new relationship with Dell are defensive measures against the encroachment of both freebie open-source databases and, ironically enough, offerings from purveyors of the priciest databases out there—those from IBM and from Oracle Corp. Noel Yuhanna, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif., said that recent low-cost offerings from Oracle and IBM are picking up traction in the market, as are open-source databases, threatening Microsofts long-held position as the bargain-basement RDBMS (relational database management system).

Next Page: Workgroup Edition is Microsofts garlic against open-source vampires.