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November 7, 2005

Microsoft talks scaling at high end, free at low end

Microsoft Corp chief executive Steve Ballmer, cheered on by a few thousand developer loyalists, yesterday launched SQL Server 2005, BizTalk Server 2006 and Visual Studio 2005 at a typically extravagant launch event in San Francisco.

By CBR Staff Writer

For Microsoft, it was the biggest launch of the year, the most-delayed launch of the year, and the launch designed more than ever to address what are usually regarded as the company’s biggest weaknesses — security and scalability.

The three products, which have been touted for years and the subject of extensive previewing and beta-testing, already have a broadly understood and documented set of new features. Highlights of the launch were details of the go-to-market strategy.

The company talked up its performance at the high end, targeted Oracle Corp with a migration discount program and an SAP AG alliance, and revealed plans to offer low-end versions of the new software for free.

SQL Server 2005, the first update of Microsoft’s database software for five years, received much of the attention. At the low-end, it was news that the Express version will be free at first. At the high-end, scalability was the big deal.

The oldest issue we’ve dealt with people in worrying about the Microsoft platform, frankly, is scalability, Ballmer said. Today, we should be able to completely convince you there is no job too big to run entirely on the Windows and Microsoft platform.

He showed a slide claiming Microsoft had run a benchmark test used by rival IBM comparing an Oracle/WebSphere/Linux server to the new SQL Server 2005 on Windows. The numbers were 2,915 transactions per second for Microsoft, versus 1,030 TPS.

Oracle, which still beats Microsoft in terms of deployments at the high end, is in Microsoft’s sights, and Microsoft has partnered with sometime rival SAP in order to eat into its database rival’s market share.

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We have a very close relationship with SAP, Ballmer said. I think everyone understands we have a level of competition in the mid-market, but as we go to market in large enterprises we’re really very aligned.

He said that 70% of all SAP installations are on top of Windows servers, and that SAP on SQL Server 2000 supported up to 26,000 concurrent users. That triples to 93,000 concurrent users in SQL 2005, he claimed.

The two companies have also signed a multiyear licensing agreement to offer SQL as an integrated component of the SAP product family, to be offered directly by SAP, which does not have a database component of its own, Ballmer revealed.

We have a set of programs launched with SAP that will go take market share from Oracle as the application and database platform in the largest enterprises, Ballmer added.

Aside from partnering with SAP, which faces increasing competition from Oracle following its recent acquisition spree, Microsoft will also offer discounts to companies that migrate from Oracle to SQL Server 2005.

We have an offer, broadly available, of 50% off for people who can get customers to migrate off a competitive database, for example Oracle, for the first year, Ballmer said, yelling the words Oracle and migrate, and getting cheers.

On the Visual Studio 2005 front, where Microsoft competes with Java tools vendors, Microsoft is promising to make application development quicker, code sizes up to 70% smaller, and a streamlined workflow.

The one big piece of VS 2005 not yet fully available — Team System, which automates development workflow. Microsoft launched the client side of the software yesterday, but the server piece will be out next year.

Ballmer talked up an IDC survey that said 35% of mission critical applications were developed using Microsoft’s platform, compared to 25% running Java. The remainder were older Unix and mainframe languages, he said.

One key feature of Visual Studio announced yesterday were new security vulnerability scanning tools, which would give developers the dubious privilege of writing their applications at least as securely as Microsoft.

Everything we’ve learned about how to go through source code and find potential security vulnerabilities we’ve put in Visual Studio and put in front of you, so you can write more secure code, Ballmer said.

During Ballmers pitch for VS 2005, equal billing was given to the hobbyist and student user, a developer demographic that will be key if Microsoft wants longevity in the face of the increasing popularity of open-source based development platforms.

The Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP open-source web app platform, known as LAMP, is becoming more popular with low-end non-commercial developers and those who cannot afford to invest in commercial software.

So Ballmer announced that the feature-limited Express editions of its new developer tools and SQL Server 2005 will be free to download.

We want to make sure that as people enter the profession of programming, whether they’re 10 years old, nine years old, 20 years old, they can start with our developer tools start with our runtime, start with our IDE, Ballmer said.

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