Who will power the back end of the emerging dot-com economy? That's the high-stakes IT war currently being waged, and without doubt, choosing a database platform is one of the most strategic battles. Ultimately, every significant business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) site on the Internet relies on database technology. Database vendors who establish a dominant position will reap the rewards, whereas vendors who can't capture market share in this game will be remembered as legacy.

For better or worse, right or wrong, the IT industry perceives that Oracle is the only game in town for meeting the scalability and reliability requirements of the incredibly stressful dot-com architecture. I've heard stories of venture-capital companies encouraging their pre-IPO startups to migrate from SQL Server to Oracle because "that's what the market expects." Part of this perception stems from the fact that SQL Server and Windows NT are relative newcomers to the enterprise database party. Some people look back fondly on "little SQL Server running on those cute little PCs." They haven't accepted that Microsoft server technology is all grown up now.

Oracle’s questionable marketing statements feed this perception, too. For example, you've probably seen the full-page ad in which Oracle claims that 10 of the top 10 e-commerce sites run Oracle. But a recent PC Data survey listing the top 10 e-tailers ranked by number of buyers shows SQL Server with 6 of 10 spots, Oracle with 3 of 10 spots, and "other" with the remaining spot. The Oracle ad also mentions Dell.com by name, but as Barry Goffe, Microsoft product manager for SQL Server, points out, " ... they (Oracle) never actually claimed people on this list ran Oracle's database for their Web site.... Somewhere inside Dell, there's a copy of Oracle sitting on a shelf, while Dell.com is on SQL Server 7.0."

During the past few months, I've discussed SQL Server’s impressive benchmarks. But when push comes to shove, benchmarks are meaningless. The only thing that matters is whether it works for you. One way to answer that question is to build it and see, but that path is fraught with danger. A better solution is to see whether the proposed solution works for people just like you who are doing things just like you do.

Can SQL Server handle the database needs of a dot-com market? Some of the most successful shopping sites on the Internet seem to think so. Heard of any of these sites?

  • 1-800-flowers.com
  • Barnesandnoble.com
  • Buy.com
  • CarPoint.com
  • CDW.com
  • Dell.com
  • Eddiebauer.com
  • Healthshop.com
  • SmarterKids.com
  • Starbucks.com
  • uBid.com
  • Valupage.com

(For more information, see Microsoft’s Web site.) Dell, Barnes’ and Noble, Eddie Bauer, Starbucks? The list goes on. We're not talking about Joe's Internet Widgets here. These are serious e-commerce sites with serious performance and uptime needs.

A recent study by Zona Research found that SQL Server is the most popular database source for host-based applications accessed through a Web server. According to Zona, SQL Server's Web server market penetration actually increased from 56 percent to 68 percent during fourth-quarter 1999.

Can SQL Server provide the power to keep your Web customers happy? Sixty-eight percent of the market seems to think so. That means your competitors might already be using SQL Server and Windows NT to achieve their business objectives with significant cost savings. Maybe you should, too?