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Sucking the oxygen from the migration conversation: Thoughts on Microsoft's Parallel Data Warehouse

29 November 2010

When it comes to the analyst community there is none better than Merv Adrian. His comments at a briefing or a BBBT are insightful, if you can’t make a conference following @merv is a worthy substitute, and his blog is required reading.

One of his recent blogs is on SQL Server PDW – Microsoft Leaps Late, Lags with SQL Server PDW. The title is not the most positive, and while his analysis is of course sound, I still believe Microsoft SQL Sever 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) is a game changer.

Microsoft is not like any of the other MPP vendors – or other data warehouse database vendors for that matter. It already has volume, and owns the low and mid end markets. WhereScape has more SQL Server implementations that any other database platform. We see more new (or replacement) data warehouses built on SQL Server than any other platform. Despite often having perfectly good entry level and mid market offerings, the other database providers don’t even get a chance in many opportunities – SQL Server is the default choice and a good one.

We do see conversions from SQL Server to other databases (to be fair we also see conversions to SQL Server as well). The main reason we are given for converting from SQL Server is perceived scalability issues. I say perceived as often it is balance and configuration as much as scalability that it the issue.

This is where PDW and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Fast Track Data Warehouse (Fast Track) are game changes. Microsoft is removing scale as a reason to migrate to another database. It is sucking the oxygen from the migration conversation. Database migrations are already a painful exercise. The appliance vendors have done their best to mitigate the disruption in some scenarios, but it is still not without (often substantial) cost in dollars and time.

There will still be some people who want to join the big-end data warehouse club by implementing an appliance, another relational database or a specialist data warehouse database. Just not so many. And the argument is made harder when the new platform is more expensive to licence and maintain than the old one.

But I don’t see PDW and Fast Track only appealing to the Microsoft base. Who, having seen a bunch of them in kilts at SQL Pass, I have to say are a scary lot. Microsoft’s customer base gives them an ideal place to gain momentum, and to establish a beachhead for attacking other markets. As their technology matures and the customer stories come out, it can’t be good for the other database players, especially the less established MPP vendors, to have another alternative in the market.

Merv talks about how Microsoft is hiring, and its team is excited and knowledgeable (as well as their base). Marry that with Microsoft’s traditional aggressive pricing, and I think we have a game on right now. And it is a new game.

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