Microsoft has confirmed SQL Server 2012, formerly code-named Denali, is on track to debut in the first half of 2012. For channel partners, SQL Server 2012 will blend new business intelligence, data warehousing and cloud computing capabilities. The VAR Guy's key question: Will SQL Server 2012 really gain ground on Oracle's scalability and Big Data capabilities?

When it comes to technical deep dives about SQL Server, The VAR Guy typically defers to his sister site: SQL Server Magazine and pundits like Michael Otey. But our resident blogger has covered databases in the IT channel for about 20 years, so The VAR Guy is pretty darn comfortable describing Microsoft's SQL Server strategy -- and the two-decade-long pursuit of Oracle.

New Capabilities

SQL Server 2012, better known as Denali, is expected to support the following capabilities and extensions:
  • Closer work with the Hadoop ecosystem, which could allow SQL Server to manage petabytes of data across thousands of nodes.
  • Power View capabilities, formerly project Crescent, which will extend touch capabilities to data management by the end of 2012.
  • Data Explorer, which will allow customers to discover and share data.
  • SQL Server Data Tools, formerly code-named Juneau, a development environment for customers and partners.
  • And ColumnStore Index, which offers a 10X performance boost for data warehouses, Microsoft claims.

Chasing Oracle

No doubt, SQL Server has been the most popular database for Windows Server and Microsoft-centric customer shops since the mid-1990s. But in terms of overall database market share -- and in many scalability tests -- Microsoft is still chasing Oracle.

And Oracle isn't resting on its laurels. During Oracle OpenWorld last week in San Francisco, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison spent most of his time attacking IBM's systems and database businesses, claiming that Oracle's engineered systems strategy can hammer IBM. Ellison's goal is to offer best-of-breed solutions in every layer of the Oracle stack: processors (SPARC), system software (Oracle Linux, Oracle VM and Solaris), databases, middleware and applications.

Meanwhile, Oracle President Safra Catz claimed Microsoft is distracted in the consumer market and won't be able to focus appropriately on the enterprise. The VAR Guy doesn't fully agree with Catz; Microsoft's server applications business has been growing nicely in recent quarters.

Oracle has also introduced new solutions for midmarket channel partners. For example, the Oracle Database Appliance has 24 Intel cores and seeks to help customers consolidate distributed SQL Server databases onto fewer but potentially more scalable Oracle databases. Avnet Technology Solutions, the value-added distributor, has ordered 100 of the database appliances and expects to sell the inventory quickly.

Plus, Oracle Channel Chief Judson Althoff says Oracle is seeking to recruit 5,000 new channel partners into the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Specialized partner program.

Microsoft: Moving From SMB to Enterprise?

Still, But Microsoft also has its own strengths. Generally speaking, SQL Server has a stronger following than Oracle in small businesses. And the SMB channel has a longstanding relationship with Microsoft. Still undetermined: Whether SQL Server 2012 can help Microsoft close the gap against Oracle in the enterprise.