Oracle, Microsoft face off

Oracle, Microsoft face off

Federal SQL Server apps run the gamut
Air Force Combat
Desert CareOnline transaction processing
of patient health records
Justice DepartmentFederal Prison
SAP R/3 enterprise resource
Army Contracting
Command, III Corps
Army Electronic
Commerce Project
Online procurement gateway
Army Operational Testing
and Evaluation Command
Data warehouseDecision support app that
integrates storage and analysis
of performance test data
for weapons and equipment
Coast GuardHousing Management
Information System
Intranet app for managing
housing inventory
and occupancy
Federal Aviation
OpSpecsDocument management for
Flight Standards Service
NASAOutsourcing the Desktop
Initiative for NASA
Seat management of desktop
PCs and network servers
IRSTracking tax-audit
Document management app
NavyType commanders'
Readiness Management
Decision support, logistics and
combat readiness

Competition for federal users heats up between SQL Server 7, Oracle8i

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

Two of the world's largest software companies are going head-to-head in the federal database market. Microsoft Corp. claims its SQL Server 7 relational database management system has made big inroads, but long-dominant Oracle Corp. maintains Microsoft is not even playing in the same ballpark.

Exact numbers are difficult to come by, but both companies agree that Oracle commands roughly three-fourths of the federal database market. And both companies agree that database expansion is brisk, driven by systems modernization, electronic commerce and paperless government initiatives.

Late last fall, Microsoft launched Version 7 of its SQL Server RDBMS with the announced goal of supplanting Oracle software within the federal government. About the same time, Oracle released its Oracle8i universal file system and RDBMS.

One-quarter, now

Nearly 800,000 federal desktop PCs, roughly 25 percent of the total, are licensed to use SQL Server, said Chris Guziak, business development manager for the Microsoft Federal Systems Enterprise Systems Group in Washington. That number, however, counts all seats covered by enterprise licenses for the Microsoft Office or BackOffice suites.

Microsoft is claiming about 50 federal enterprise projects, either online or still in development, that use SQL Server in versions 6.5 and 7. The case studies range from the largest departments such as Defense, to small agencies such as the National Credit Union Administration.

Oracle is also claiming successes. Last fall the company inked an enterprise license agreement covering all 108,000 users in the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The Census Bureau has licensed Oracle database products for next year's decennial census. Oracle has also publicized nine agencies' use of Oracle Public Sector Applications based on the company's RDBMS.

Oracle products run under Unix and Linux operating systems as well as Microsoft Windows NT, said Tim Hoechst, vice president of technology for Oracle service industries in Reston, Va. Oracle's technology scales better to federal demands, he said.

'Desktop databases aren't that relevant when focused on the federal government's information technology problems,' Hoechst said. 'Large information management problems don't get served by desktop databases.'

Attractive OLAP

According to Guziak, SQL Server is making its deepest inroads in three areas: data warehousing, electronic commerce applications and enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform integrations. He said customers are attracted to SQL Server's online analytical processing features and its tools for creating a Web interface to transactional databases.

One of SQL Server 7's design goals was to excel at running the leading ERP applications from SAP America Inc. of Wayne, Pa., and PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., Guziak said.

Federal Prison Industries, the Justice Department agency that runs the manufacturing operations inside federal penitentiaries, is using SQL Server to set up the largest-ever SAP R/3 implementation under Windows NT [GCN, Aug. 23, Page 14].

The prison industries' R/3 installation, code-named Millennium, will have a capacity of 1,500 concurrent users. That is nearly three times as many as Microsoft's own internal SAP system, which can handle 550 concurrent users, Guziak said.

Tom Phalen, Federal Prison Industries' chief of information systems and SAP project manager, said his agency first chose SAP and then chose the operating system and database management package to use with it.

The organization had been using a relational database from Progress Software Corp. of Bedford, Mass., but SAP R/3 did not work with the Progress database, he said.

'I just felt that SQL Server 7 had been designed with running SAP in mind,' Phalen said.

All 193 factories at 72 prison sites will convert to the new R/3 system by May 30, Phalen said. A 21-member team of prison industries employees, assisted by a few consultants, started working on the project in January.

Desert Care, an Air Force project to detect possible biological or chemical attacks on troops by rapidly analyzing patient reports, uses SQL Server.

The Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va., installed SQL Server 6.5 in April 1998 and upgraded to Version 7 last month, said Lt. Col. Edward Kline, information systems officer for the command surgeon's office.

Air Force officials chose SQL Server for Desert Care based on its features, not on cost, Kline said.

Each time a soldier in the field visits a doctor, the medical staff enters the details of the clinical encounter in a standard database file, Kline said. SQL Server 7's replication features get the Desert Care data back to the United States for analysis as soon as it is captured.

'The doctors may not realize what their colleagues are seeing,' Kline said, but Desert Care could pick up trends in patients' symptoms minutes after they start coming in.

SQL Server also powers the databases of the Army Electronic Commerce Project. The Contracting Command for the Army's III Armored Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, and the Palestine Electronic Commerce Resource Center, a contractor for the Defense Logistics Agency, put together the Web-based procurement application for the III Corps sites at Fort Hood, Fort Carson, Colo., and Fort Riley, Kan.

Jay Tucker, a management consultant with the Palestine ECRC, said the site, at, went live just over a year ago, after about a year of development work. It still runs SQL Server 6.5.

The developers chose SQL Server because they felt comfortable with its integration with the rest of the group's Windows NT environment, Tucker said.

On the intranet

The Coast Guard's Housing Management Information System (HMIS) replaced a distributed Progress database running under the old CTOS operating system by an intranet application using a SQL Server database, said Ray Cloak of the Coast Guard's Operations Systems Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.

HMIS started up on SQL Server 6.5 and was upgraded to Version 7 in April, Cloak said. Its developers selected the Microsoft product because of its ease of use and graphical interface, he said.

The Army's Operational Testing and Evaluation Command in Alexandria, Va., uses SQL Server as the backbone of its online decision support system for hardware and software test programs.

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