I ran into an interesting discussion on The Server Side: Comparing Oracle 10g and SQL Server Yukon. It contains a link to a white paper: Features, strengths, and weaknesses comparison between Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (Yukon) and Oracle 10g databases and subsequently a long, long discussion thread with some sensible things being said. Quite some focus on locking (row vs. page) and read consistency. A number of items from last week’s Tom Kyte seminar are reiterated in the discussions. Now I think I can understand what is being said. It also says things about MySQL and PostgreSQL as serious alternatives in certain circumstances.
From the preface of this 29 page long paper:
The purpose of the following white paper is to provide a feature comparison between MSSQL 20051 and Oracle 10g. We will compare VLDB/OLTP related features and discuss issues with performance, utilities and replication. We will discuss several new features, which were developed by Microsoft in order to provide competitive functionality to its commercial rival Oracle database. At the same time we will discuss the changes from a Database Administrator stand point that were done to MSSQL 2005 release compared to previous releases. Since this topic is intended mostly to Database Administrators, we will not add information such as minimum requirements, supported platforms and max number of columns per table as redundant. We have never seen anyone purchase a database product only because it can hold up to 32k columns per table and not “just” 1024.
Microsoft published “Top 10 Features for Database Administration” (actually all of them are very nice features). Nearly all of these features are present in Oracle since early 8i or prior. The “Snapshot Isolation” is only a kind of superset feature that provides midway functionality to Oracle row versioning although with such cons as higher overhead. However MSSQL database was and still is several steps ahead of Oracle in such great features like the ease of installation, configuration, performing basic tuning and the use of development tools. When comparing Oracle 8i/9i with MSSQL 2000 for VLDB/OLTP and enterprise applications on high end machines, the important limitation of Oracle always was the need for a highly skillful Oracle DBA, while almost every experienced MSSQL developer can perform DBA role successfully.
Early conclusion: MS SQL Server made important progress with its new Yukon release. However if you have a complicated application or systems running on high end machines you may still want to consider using Oracle. For department level servers and small/mid range applications the MSSQL server would be a preferred choice.