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Comparing SQL Server and Oracle

Issue 6 Number 9 September 2014

Kurt Survance

SQL Consulting, Inc.

I should know better than to throw myself into the SQL Server vs. Oracle religious war, but clients and potential clients often ask me the question “Which is better, Oracle or SQL Server?” I have to give them an answer

First I need to mention that I have few qualifications to deliberate that question. It is true that I began my career in Oracle but I have not worked with Oracle for many years. One qualification may be that I do not have an emotional or techno-religious attachment to either database platform. I also have an opinion that is independent of any financial considerations.

There is a reason why I keep advertising out of this newsletter. When I receive newsletters from the current crop of SQL gurus they usually begin and end with a pitch for Microsoft or some 3rd party SQL Server vendor. It is true that there are some experts who are willing to bite the hand that feeds them, but it is difficult for me to accept their opinions on certain matters including the one at hand here: Which is better, SQL Server or Oracle?

Actually, the question is usually not well–put. “Which Platform will best serve my needs” would be a better way to frame the question

There are many criteria that could be brought into play in this discussion but most of the people asking me the question are concerned mainly with best performance (speed) and cost.


Both platforms routinely trade around the title for fastest. However the benchmark tests they use are contrived to show their product in the best light and are not applicable to performance in the real world. “fast enough” is primarily dependent on resources (disk, memory, cpu, etc) and efficient programming. I have not observed any inherent speed difference between the two platforms, at least when running on Microsoft servers.

In my opinion, Oracle’s reputation for blazing speed comes about because it can run on intrinsically more powerful platforms like mainframe or UNIX servers, while SQL Server runs only on Microsoft servers. If you are planning to run on Microsoft Servers, I have no doubt that SQL Server is the better choice because of its tight integration with the operating system and its lower cost. If your infrastructure is Unix, Mini or Mainframe servers, then SQL Server is out of the picture.

Another point for Oracle is that it generally is earlier to deploy new database technologies to improve performance while SQL Server is playing catch-up. For example SQL Server 2014 is the first SQL version to offer memory-optimized tables. That technology has been in Oracle for quite a while


On the down side, The cost of Oracle is about2.5 to3 times the cost of SQL Server for similar editions. That is a huge downside to many companies. Often it outweighs all other considerations.

IT Staff Expertise

An often overlooked consideration is the experience and expertise of your IT personnel. You will normally choose the platform that your technical people already know. The alternative is to have them retrained or replaced. Retraining is costly and time-consuming. Afterwards you may have an IT staff that has fresh knowledge of the platform, but they probably will not have much experience in using that knowledge.

As for the replacement option, would you really want to do that? Besides, Oracle DBA’s normally demand and get higher salaries than SQL Server DBA’s

Be Reasonable

Too often this decision is argued emotionally between adherents of the platform which they know best. However, it is important to filter out the background noise and make a reasoned choice based on your requirements and budget.

Afterward by the Author

I hope this information has been helpful to you. I would appreciate any feedback you can give me about this article or recommend future articles you would like to see. If you enjoyed reading this article, you might like to receive this monthly newsletter via Twitter. If so, follow me.

As always, if you have questions or comments give me a call at 503.914.6442 or send me email.

Kurt Survance, SQL Consulting, Inc.

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