You've got to give Microsoft Corp. credit. Most any other company selling an aging version of a software product with a new (and greatly hyped) release on the way would see sales drop off. But last year Microsoft's SQL Server 2005 database managed to pick up market share.
Why the continued momentum? Business intelligence is a key growth driver, and partners are tapping into SQL Server's built-in reporting and analysis tools. "We've heard from partners that they want to work with us around BI," said Kim Saunders, senior director of marketing for SQL Server.
One reason Microsoft seems immune to sales slowdowns related to product transitions is the company's Software Assurance program under which customers get new versions of Microsoft products for three years. So businesses don't hesitate to buy the current version of SQL Server even when a new release is in the wings, said Ronnie Parisella, CTO of Primary Support, a New York solution provider and Microsoft partner.
Customers with older versions of SQL Server who have renewed their Software Assurance agreements in recent years will get SQL Server 2008 for free when it ships in the second half of this year.
Parisella also noted that many applications that run on SQL Server are mission critical and so companies are generally slow to upgrade to new database releases. "The majority of applications we support are on SQL Server 2000," he said.
Data showing that IBM Corp.'s share of database software sold through distributors declinedcomes as a surprise to Bernie Spang, director of data servers. Spang said a "significant volume" of IBM database software, which includes the DB2 and IDS (formerly Informix) products, go through distribution and indirect channels. He said sales of those products grew significantly in 2007.
The flat results for Oracle Corp. may be a bit of a disappointment given the mid-2007 launch of the company's VAD Remarketer program, which seeks to increase sales of Oracle database products through distributors. But VARs will buy more through the program as they better understand it, predicted Judson Althoff, vice president of Oracle's global platform and distribution sales. "I think what you're going to see there is sort of a domino effect," he said.