Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Oracle Database vs. Microsoft SQL Server

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In the relational database management system (RDBMS) software space, two giants stand out from the rest, offering more features and user benefits: Oracle Database and Microsoft SQL Server.

However, it can be difficult to choose between the two leading RDBMS products. See below to learn how the two systems compare and guide your selection process: 

Choosing between Oracle and Microsoft for your RDBMS

Relational database management system (RDBMS) software 

A database management system (DBMS) is software that helps enterprises to organize and manage both structured and unstructured data across company databases. 

Both Oracle Database and Microsoft SQL Server function as relational database management systems (RDBMS), or systems that help you to manage the relationships across data via tables.

Oracle describes a database management system as software that interfaces between databases and end users or programs, making it possible to work with data through performance monitoring, tuning, backup and recovery, management, and overall optimization.

Microsoft offers a similar explanation, stating that database management systems aren’t just for organizing databases, but for giving data analysts sufficient tools and information to efficiently analyze and create reports.

See more: What is a Database Management System?


Our pick: Oracle Database

Microsoft and Oracle are pretty neck and neck when it comes to most of their features but that hasn’t always been the case. Oracle has traditionally offered stronger querying features, but with the introduction of SQL Server 2019 and its Big Data Clusters, Microsoft is matching the pace of Oracle’s tools like Real Application Clusters (RAC).

There are still some areas where Microsoft falls behind, such as transaction control features. Transaction controls make it possible for a user to separate the different operations that happen in a transaction. If something goes wrong in the transaction, the user can identify where it happened, and they don’t have to roll back the entire transaction. 

Transaction controls have been a feature of Oracle Database over the last several versions, separating each operation into individual transactions to increase visibility and avoid errors. In Microsoft SQL Server, each operation happens sequentially within a given transaction, so it’s challenging to check for and eliminate pinpointed errors within a transaction of data. 

Again, the latest version of SQL Server matches many of the strengths that Oracle has shown off for years, but with features like transaction controls and a larger portfolio of in-house data tools, Oracle Database takes the feature category.

Microsoft SQL ServerOracle Database
On-premises and cloud options
Little to no transaction control
End-to-end mobile business intelligence (BI)
Basic built-in security and compliance tracking
Growing capabilities to work with Linux and other operating systems
Strong customer support and user forum
Data encryption and role filtering
Data masking and virtualization
Highly customizable and free pricing options
Big Data Clusters
Several third-party and Microsoft integrations available
Data center, public cloud, and private cloud options
Transaction control features
Machine learning (ML) capabilities for data analysis
Extensive security breach protection
Longstanding and diverse capabilities with most operating systems (except Mac)
Customer support at extra cost
Database manageability through a consolidated dashboard
Custom application development capabilities with built-in tools and procedural languages
Several pricing packages with add-on modules at an extra cost
Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC)
A large data management portfolio of Oracle tools for integration


Our pick: Oracle Database

Both Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle Database offer native and API-driven ways to connect to additional software, mostly within the data management, warehousing, and manipulation families. They both provide integration options in their data portfolio, with Microsoft offering the entire Azure family up for integration and Oracle offering tools like GoldenGate and the Berkeley DB line of tools.

Although the two products are essentially tied in their capabilities for third-party integrations, Oracle has the edge because of the larger family of in-house tools that integrate with Oracle Database.

Microsoft SQL ServerOracle Database
Tools within brand portfolioAzure SQL Database
Azure SQL Data Warehouse
Azure Cosmos DB
Data Integrator for Oracle BI
Berkeley DB line
Third-party integrationsMySQL
Apache Spark
IBM Cognos Analytics
Microsoft Power BI
Apache Spark
Apache Kafka
Google Suite

See more: AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud: 2021 Cloud Platform Comparison


Our pick: Microsoft for smaller, novice teams; Oracle for larger, expert teams

Whether you are a longtime data expert or not, Microsoft SQL Server is known to be one of the easiest RDBMS products to launch and maintain. Microsoft’s pricing is flexible and includes some free options, its Installation Wizard is praised for how it walks new customers through deployment, and its customer support and community forums receive constant high marks from users. The main areas where it struggles include speed of query processing and concerns about scalability, so it may not be the strongest solution for larger enterprises working with larger quantities of data.

Oracle Database wins over many larger enterprise customers because its security is some of the strongest on the market, the system connects with dozens of other tools in the Oracle data family, and its new features are usually launched with minimal bugs. However, some customers have been frustrated by what they feel is an inaccessible support structure, with limited free support and training options, and several add-ons that increase the Oracle Database learning curve. 

Oracle and Microsoft offer opposite benefits in several cases, so buyers should consider their top priorities before making a decision.

Microsoft SQL ServerOracle Database
Streamlined installation/deployment through the Installation Wizard is available in all packages. Several users have praised how much this tool simplifies the launch and initial learning process.Oracle Database upholds some of the strongest security in the RDBMS field via encryption, key management, data masking, privileged user access controls, activity monitoring, and auditing.
User community forums and Microsoft customer support help troubleshoot a variety of issues, at no added cost.The system is an established top player in the RDBMS field and gives users a tested, trusted, and stable solution.
Microsoft has been in the RDBMS market since 1989 and releases new versions with new features every few years. Users can rest assured that they’ll have an up-to-date tool if they keep up with their upgrades.Oracle Database is compatible with other data tools in the portfolio.
Microsoft offers flexible pricing packages that generally cost less than other top RDBMS competitors.The system's integration and analytics capabilities are built for scalability and grow with a business.
Oracle is known for the stability of its new releases and the length of time for which they'll provide support and bug fixes.

User reviews

Our pick: Microsoft SQL Server

In this category, Microsoft SQL Server edges ahead, with two out of five review sites giving it a higher average score. One area in particular where Microsoft moves past Oracle is in customer support. Several user reviews mention the Installation Wizard, the helpful and freely available Microsoft agents that guide them through issues, and several insightful community forums, such as SQL Server Tech Community and SQLPerformance.

Oracle keeps up with Microsoft in most user review categories, but it falls behind in the support category. Some customers complain that their support is not freely available or available 24/7, unless you pay a steep additional price to tack on that level of support.

Microsoft SQL ServerOracle Database
Gartner Peer Insights4.5 out of 54.5 out of 5
TrustRadius8.9 out of 108.4 out of 10
G24.4 out of 54.2 out of 5
Capterra4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
Software Advice4.5 out of 54.5 out of 5


Our pick: Microsoft SQL Server

Both Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle Database offer a wide variety of pricing packages and add-on features, but nearly any way you slice it, Microsoft comes out at a lower price point. Microsoft SQL Server also offers free options with their Express and Developer packages. While those two options may not have the bandwidth your organization requires, Microsoft’s most expensive Enterprise package costs tens of thousands of dollars less than the Enterprise version at Oracle.

Some of Microsoft SQL Server’s additional features require payments, but many of its top features are included with the paid product. Oracle Database offers a broad range of customizable add-on modules, but they come at a price. 

Although Microsoft SQL Server is less expensive than Oracle Database and will most likely be a better fit for small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it’s important to note that Oracle Database could end up being less expensive in the long run: its security and scalability structures may require less maintenance and staff over the years.

Microsoft SQL ServerOracle Database
Standard pricingCAL: $209 price and $1,418/year subscription
Server: $899 price and $1,418/year subscription
Per Core: $3,586 price and $1,418/year subscription
$17,500 and $3,850 for software update license and support
Enterprise pricing$13,748 price and $5,434/year subscription$47,500 and $10,450 for software update license and support


Our pick: Oracle Database

Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle Database are top RDBMS competitors for a reason, and they both bring some different strengths to the table. We give Oracle the edge, especially for larger enterprises, because it’s hard to compete with its top-tier security features like encryption, key management, data masking, privileged user access controls, activity monitoring, and auditing. And with a wide variety of in-house data tools that can integrate with Oracle Database, the system is scalable in a way that most other RDBMS products are not. 

Microsoft made more advances in the space with Microsoft SQL 2019. Some of the most noteworthy features include cloud and edge computing upgrades, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning-powered data analysis, and a growing pool of third-party integrations. With its top-rated network of support and user resources, it is gaining on Oracle Database as the most popular RDBMS option, and it could definitely better serve teams that want or need more guidance.

Microsoft SQL ServerOracle Database
BenefitsX (Smaller teams)X (Enterprises)
User reviewsX

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An In-Depth Review of Microsoft SQL Server: MS SQL Server Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) Review

An In-Depth Review of Oracle Database: Oracle Relational Database Management System Review

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