Although growth figures might not be as important as product features, product growth does influence both existing customers and potential customers. There's no better sign of product stability than a growing market share. Fueled in part by the long-awaited release of SQL Server 2005, the Microsoft Server and Tools Business division reported 18 percent revenue growth for the past year, (according to Microsoft's fourth-quarter 2006 earnings announcement at http://www.microsoft.com/msft/earnings/default.mspx). A revenue standout, Microsoft's Server and Tools Business division has been on a roll for the past four years, achieving 16 straight quarters of double-digit revenue growth. Just as impressive, though not surprising, Server and Tools Product group led the way, increasing revenue 35 percent over the previous year.

Based on the revenue numbers, it's clear that SQL Server 2005 is the fastest growing enterprise database in the market. The IDC report "Worldwide RDBMS 2005 Vendor Shares: Preliminary Results for the Top 5 Vendors Hold Their Positions" (http://www.oracle.com/corporate/analyst/reports/infrastructure/dbms/idc-201692.pdf) shows the database market growing almost 9.4 percent, reaching $14.5 billion in revenue. SQL Server enjoyed the fastest growth rate of all database systems, with more than 21 percent growth in market share. Overall, SQL Server ranks third in the enterprise database market,behind Oracle and IBM DB2. According to the IDC report, Oracle is clearly number one, with 44.6 percent of the overall database market. IBM DB2 and SQL Server trail at 21.4 percent and 16.8 percent respectively. However, the revenue growth rate for Oracle and IBM DB2 was far slower than SQL Server at 8.6 percent and 6.5 percent respectively.

SQL Server's remarkable growth rate is driven by several factors.The release of SQL Server 2005 is part of it, but the emphasis on business intelligence (BI) that's built into the 2005 release is just as important. Microsoft's been the leading enterprise relational database vendor in BI since the 1998 release of SQL Server 7.0, which included OLAP and ETL with the Standard edition. SQL Server 2005 continues to lead the market in BI by including the updated Analysis Services 2005, enhanced data-mining capabilities, the completely rewritten Integration Services, and enhanced Reporting Services in the Standard and Enterprise editions. Both Oracle and IBM price their BI products separately.

With SQL Server 2005's increased emphasis on BI, the results of IDC's report "Worldwide Business Intelligence Tools 2005 Shares" (http://www.microsoft.com/bi/IDCvendorshare2005.mspx) are no surprise. Microsoft is number four overall in BI market share. However, the same report shows huge (25.5 percent) revenue growth for Microsoft's BI tools, outpacing Oracle (15.7 percent) and IBM (6.0 percent). Interestingly, the report ranks ProClarity third highest in revenue growth in 2005 (21.5 percent). Certainly you can expect more from Microsoft on the BI front since its acquisition of ProClarity and as we look forward to the launch of Office 2007—with its stronger BI toolset—and the launch of the new Performance-Point Server 2007. Because SQL Server is one of the fastest growing parts of Microsoft, the product should receive first-class support and development efforts.To paraphrase the well known Avis commercial,"When you're number three you try harder"—and the Microsoft SQL Server team is certainly trying harder.