The public animosity between Oracle and Microsoft reached a new peak this fall when Microsoft sent its primary database competitor a cease-and-desist order asking Oracle to stop unfairly criticizing SQL Server. Microsoft took that action after Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, always a vocal critic of Microsoft and its database software, publicly sneered that the only software SQL Server ran well was the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC) TPC-C benchmark. Ellison was responding to Microsoft's October announcement that SQL Server had shattered the TPC-C benchmark, an industry-standard test for measuring transaction-processing throughput.

Touting the superiority of the integrated Oracle8i database and Oracle9i application server, Ellison blasted Microsoft's "paper" victory, insisting that Oracle software, not SQL Server, ran behind all of the biggest sites on the Internet. Microsoft responded quickly. In Ellison's attempt to demonstrate SQL Server's alleged weaknesses at a recent conference, Microsoft said, he had used the TPC-C benchmarks in violation of Microsoft's licensing agreement. So the company sent Ellison a cease-and-desist letter.

"When \[Ellison\] used a copy of SQL Server to run a TPC-C benchmark scenario and misrepresented SQL Server's capabilities onstage at OpenWorld \[in October 2000\], he violated Microsoft's licensing agreement," said Steve Murchie, SQL Server group product manager. "Our licensing agreement stipulates that no benchmarking can be published without permission, \[which is\] not unusual. Oracle has the same licensing terms. In an ongoing attempt to keep Larry Ellison honest, Microsoft issued Oracle a standard cease-and-desist letter."

In speech after speech last fall, Ellison repeated his message that SQL Server wasn't ready for the demanding tasks that Oracle software performed daily. Taking up its own defense at Fall Comdex in Las Vegas, Microsoft handed out mugs with a message plugging SQL Server's "highest industry performance" to the press. Ellison, incensed by the mug's distribution, decided to run his SQL Server benchmark demo again, despite Microsoft's cease-and-desist warning. "Microsoft can give you 'record-breaking performance' on the benchmarks, but that's all they can run," he said during his Comdex keynote speech. "If the benchmark is the only application you run, it will give you a lot of speed in a short time. But if you run other applications besides the benchmark, you will want to use an Oracle system."

Microsoft, of course, disagrees. Customers are only now beginning to implement the scalability improvements in SQL Server 2000 that made its benchmark successes possible, the company says. But Ellison's criticism is a problem the Redmond giant continues to address.