Last week, Microsoft and SAP announced a new joint offering designed to "simplify and accelerate customer adoption of SQL Server 2005 and optimize it for the SAP Business Suite." Microsoft said that the “new offering will enable customers to seamlessly migrate to SQL Server from competitive database offerings."
"Microsoft and SAP have long shared a commitment to delivering value through our enterprise-class software and solutions," said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft. "The benefits of running SAP solutions on Microsoft SQL Server are clear, and with this joint offering enterprise customers will be able to even more efficiently deploy and operate their SAP environment on SQL Server 2005 while realizing a lower total cost of ownership." Let’s explore this announcement from two separate but related angles. First, let's focus on how this offering will make it easy for SAP customers to move to SQL Server from other database platforms. Second, let’s look at this offering in the context of my March 8 article Oracle’s Hyperion Acquisition: First of Many Consolidations?. Will this new offering really make it easier for existing SAP customers to move to SQL Server from a competitive database platform? I always chuckle when someone uses the phrase "seamlessly migrate" when talking about database migration, unless, of course, I'm playing "opposite day"--a game in which nonsensical statements are offered as facts--with my kids. The Microsoft/SAP press release doesn’t mention a specific set of tools that's currently available to perform the migration, which is telling. However, the press release does mention a new joint lab in Waldorf, Germany that's designed “to further optimize the process for migrating SAP ERP on SQL Server 2005.” I sense that both Microsoft and SAP are committed to making the migration process as seamless as possible, and that the current state of conversion tools doesn’t reflect the conversion tools that might exist in the near future. Only time will tell. Microsoft reported that 2/3 of SAP deployments are run on Windows, and that SQL Server is the database of choice for more than 40 percent of new SAP deployments, which proves that customers are interested in running SAP on SQL Server. It will be interesting to see what incentives Microsoft offers to entice SAP customers using other database platforms to make the switch to SQL Server. Picking SQL Server for a new deployment is one thing; investing in an effort to retool the back-end of an existing environment might require additional resources. In Oracle's Hyperion Acquisition: First of Many Consolidations?, I discussed how Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion created incentives for SAP and other large ERP vendors to engage in tighter relationships with database vendors other than Oracle. Therefore, a tighter relationship between Microsoft and SAP certainly makes sense and is predictable. The competitive dynamic between Oracle and SAP gives me further reason to believe that Microsoft and SAP are serious about creating as seamless a migration path as possible rather than the announcement simply being a press release that both vendors will forget about in a matter of weeks. Creating a seamless migration path to SQL Server is obviously in Microsoft’s interest, but you might be asking why it would be in SAP's interest. If SAP felt that Oracle was a competitive threat to its business, it would have a vested interest in making it easy for Oracle customers to migrate to SQL Server.