2012 Channel Champions: Data & Information Management

Nearly 20 years since Microsoft launched its own SQL Server version (ending its co-development alliance with Sybase), the database software is arguably as popular as ever with channel partners. The software giant has been on a roll lately in the data and information management space, thanks in large part to Microsoft SQL Server. That progress was reflected in this year's Channel Champs scores, where it came up a winner in the Data and Information Management category.

Microsoft swept all three subcategories--technical satisfaction, support satisfaction and financial factors--for the second year in a row; Microsoft also bested archrivals IBM and Oracle in 11 of the 14 total criteria, losing to IBM in only three areas.

In the technical satisfaction subcategory, IBM edged out Microsoft in multivendor support and support of standards. In the financial factors rating, IBM beat Microsoft in two criteria: product margins, SPIFs and rebates, and services attached. Oracle lagged far behind.

And, to be sure, the software giant's last major database release was two years ago with SQL Server 2008 R2, which was introduced in 2010. Now Microsoft is gearing up the launch of SQL Server 2012, which was released to manufacturing in March. Code-named Denali, SQL Server 2012 is a "cloud-ready" platform that Microsoft says will offer enhanced capabilities around business intelligence and disaster recovery.

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As the era of big data rears its cumbersome head, information management and database software is becoming even more important. Market researcher Gartner calculates that the volume of global data is growing at 59 percent every year, and as much as 70 percent to 85 percent of that is unstructured data.

"Customers are living in a sea of data," Doug Leland, general manager of Microsoft's business platform marketing group, recently told CRN. "We're now in a 'store-everything' era."

Leland said Microsoft products such as SQL Server 2012 offer ways to not only manage huge volumes of data but also analyze them to help create new business opportunities.