Microsoft Adds Workgroup Option For Present, Future SQL Servers

Starting in March, Microsoft will offer a Workgroup Edition of SQL Server 2000 to fill the gap between the free, embeddable Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine (MSDE) and SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition.

The new SKU will retail for $3,899 per processor or $739 per server with five client access licenses (CALs), said Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server at Microsoft. The workgroup version is restricted for use on two CPUs and won't include reporting services, business intelligence and other perks that come with the Standard and Enterprise versions of the database. "It is database only," Rizzo said.

Microsoft expects the product's sweet spot to be companies with five to 500 employees that also want a low entry cost. Dell Computer will also bundle the offering with select hardware, Rizzo said.

The move wasn't motivated by inexpensive, open-source databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL or the year-old Oracle 10g Standard Edition One, Rizzo said. That product was priced to go head to head with SQL Server in departments and small and midsize businesses.

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Some Microsoft partners, however, said the Redmond, Wash., company is under intense pressure from those products, as well as from IBM's DB2 Express.

The prolonged delays to SQL Server 2005, or Yukon, haven't helped. "Oracle is killing us, and Microsoft is unveiling a new version of a five-year-old product," said one East Coast SQL Server partner, who requested anonymity.

Frank Cullen, principal with Atlanta-based Blackstone and Cullen, a Microsoft partner and database specialist, said he was unsure if the new package will give Microsoft much ammunition against the low-cost IBM, Oracle and open-source offerings.

MySQL, for example, charges about $500 per server for the commercial version of its product. Microsoft will support the new generation of multicore Intel and AMD processors without additional charge. So far, IBM and Oracle have said they will charge per-CPU prices for each core, which would boost their respective prices considerably.

Robert Ginsburg, CTO of Version 3, a Columbia, S.C.-based Microsoft partner, professed "befuddlement" at the addition of a new SQL Server 2000 offering, given partners' impatience for the new Yukon release.

"I guess the motivation is to pull Yukon revenue forward," he noted. "The logic could be that they want the old licensing model to match the new model."

Rizzo said his recommendation to customers on the fence is to buy the edition of SQL Server 2000 that fits their needs now, along with Software Assurance to ease the upgrade to the new database later.

For Yukon/SQL Server 2005, beta three of which is due in March, Microsoft will offer the low-end, embeddable SQL Server Express for free, and then the Workgroup, Standard and Enterprise editions.

Some features expected to ship with the Enterprise Edition, such as 64-bit chip support, reporting services, ETL "integration services" and database mirroring will be included with the Standard Edition.

The new Enterprise Edition will add higher-end, customizable reporting, advanced database mirroring, higher-end analysis tools, OLAP and data mining capabilities, Rizzo said.

Though Microsoft is moving some advanced functions from enterprise to standard versions of the database, it is also raising retail prices for both editions.

SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition, running on up to four CPUs, will retail for $5,999 per processor or $2,799 per server with 10 CALs, compared with $4,999 per processor or $2,249 per server with 10 CALs for the current version. The upcoming Enterprise Edition will retail for $24,999 per processor or $13,499 per server with 25 CALs. The current Enterprise Edition retails for $19,999 per processor or 11,099 per server with 25 CALs.