Oracle vs SQL Server: 10 Critical Differences

on Data Analytics, Data Integration, Database Management Systems • May 19th, 2021 • Write for Hevo

Competition among companies plays a pivotal role in laying the foundation for high-quality products and services for customers. When it comes to the field of Database Management, the choice of Oracle vs SQL Server is a relatively tough one. This is pretty common in emerging and competitive fields such as Data Analytics. Having a majority customer share in the market and regularly updating your products & services does determine the revenue your organization generates. 

Oracle is owned by Oracle Corporation and is used by many companies because of its unique capabilities such as powerful software, support for parallel and distributed databases, better indexing, and many more. SQL Server is owned by Microsoft whose fundamental aim is to provide a platform to create, manage and manipulate databases. Many factors play a role in determining the database that suits your needs and it is important to address them before making a decision.

This article provides you with a comprehensive analysis of both databases and highlights the major differences between them to help you make the Oracle vs SQL Server decision with ease. It also provides you a brief overview of both databases along with their features. Finally, it highlights a few challenges you might face when you use these databases. Read along how you can decide the right database for your organization.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Oracle

Oracle Logo
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Oracle is an RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) that is designed to ensure minimal errors in a manual Database system. It is also cross-platform and can be run on various operating systems. It is the first RDBMS system that was developed solely for the purpose of businesses manipulating records in a database.

The first version of Oracle, Oracle V2 was developed in 1977 and released in 1980 by Larry Ellison, Bob Miner, and Ed Oates when they developed the consultancy, Software Development Laboratories which then became Relational Software Inc (RSI), and in 1983 became Oracle Corporation. The first version of Oracle supported SQL features as well.

The latest, stable release of Oracle is Oracle 12c but developers at Oracle Corporation are also working on Oracle 18c and Oracle 19c. Compared to other Databases, Oracle is very scalable, portable, and easily programmable. Any person who has some basic knowledge of SQL can execute queries easily. It also enables easy transfer of data between different Databases.

Since 1980, many companies have used Oracle. Some of the organizations that use Oracle include Bauerfeind AG, CAIRN India, Capcom Co., ChevronTexaco, Coca-Cola FEMSA, COOP Switzerland, ENEL, Heidelberger Druck, MTU Aero Engines, National Foods Australia, Spire Healthcare, Stadtwerke München, Swarovski, Tyson Foods, TVS Motor Company, and Vilene.

Key Features of Oracle

Oracle houses a wide range of services that make it a better solution when compared to other databases. Some of these features are:

  • It was the first RDBMS that was built solely for business purposes.
  • It can handle a large amount of data quickly.
  • It is highly scalable, portable, distributed, and programmable.
  • It is cross-platform because it runs on more than 60 platforms from mainframes to Apple Macs.
  • It is supported by many server operating systems such as z/OS, Linux, UNIX, OS X, and Windows.
  • Data reliability and integrity is maintained because it follows the ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability) properties.
  • Communication is also easy in Oracle because it has many networking stacks that enable communication with other applications on different platforms smoothly.
  • It also supports a recovery manager tool that performs regular Database backups and assists in Database recoveries.
  • Oracle is written in Assembly Language, C, and C++.
  • It supports XML (Extensible Markup Language).
  • It supports both SQL and PL/SQL Language.

To learn more about Oracle, click this link.

Introduction to SQL Server

SQL Server Logo
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SQL Server is also an RDBMS designed by Microsoft in 1989. Similar to other traditional RDBMSs like MySQL and PostgreSQL, SQL Server also leverages SQL to manage data in its database. SQL is a declarative query processing language that allows all types of users to easily and efficiently access data present on SQL Server.

Currently, Microsoft offers SQL Server under two different licenses determined by the customer’s organizational and personal needs. They are the Client Access Level (CAL) model and Per-Core model.

SQL Server supports Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. With its language drivers, you can easily connect with any code. It is available in multiple languages including French, English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and more.  

Many companies like Accenture, Microsoft, Intuit, Alibaba Travels, Stack Overflow, ViaVarejo, and many others use SQL Server to handle their database operations.

Key Features of SQL Server

SQL Server has some unique features that make it a popular database in the market. Some of those features are:

  • It offers support for different tools such as SQL Server Management Studio, Database Tuning Advisor, SQL Server Profiler, and BI tools.
  • It offers 24×7 online help and support capabilities.
  • SQL Server supports high-level programming languages like Java and Python.
  • It is helpful for backend programming for applications that use SQL.
  • It has intelligent query processing enhancements built into it to improve the query optimizer output and make them more efficient.

To learn more about SQL Server, click this link.

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Factors that Drive the Oracle vs SQL Server Decision

Now that you have a basic idea of both technologies, let us attempt to answer the Oracle vs SQL Server question. There is no one-size-fits-all answer here and the decision has to be taken based on the business requirements, budget, and parameters listed below. The following are the key factors that drive the Oracle vs SQL Server decision:

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1) Oracle vs SQL Server: Parent Company, Platform Support & Language

Oracle is owned by Oracle Corporation and can run on a wide variety of platforms such as Windows, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, and OS-X. Oracle supports PL/SQL and SQL language to write queries to access data from its database.

SQL Server is owned by Microsoft and can only be used on the Windows platform. Recently, the 2017 version of SQL Server can be run on Linux platforms as well. SQL Server uses the T-SQL(Transact-SQL) language to write queries to access data from its database.

2) Oracle vs SQL Server: Usage & Database Sharing Features

Oracle is complex to use because its syntax is a little complicated as compared to SQL. It allows users to easily share databases. It also supports packages and is backed by powerful software. The architecture of Oracle is shown below. 

Oracle Architecture
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SQL Server is simple to use as its syntax is similar to SQL. It does not allow users to share the database. It does not use packages and its processing software power is less than Oracle. The architecture of SQL Server is shown below.

SQL Server Architecture
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3) Oracle vs SQL Server: Syntax

The syntax supported by both databases is quite different from each other. The syntax followed by Oracle is a bit complex as compared to SQL Server. 

The Oracle syntax for creating a table, selecting records from the current table, updating records in the current table, and inserting records into the table is shown below.

Creating a table:

CREATE TABLE department (
dept_id int,
dept_name varchar(255),
numofemp int,
CONSTRAINT department_pk PRIMARY KEY (dept_id));

Selecting records from the table:

SELECT * FROM department;

Updating records in the table:

UPDATE department SET dept_id = ’11’ WHERE dept_name = ‘Marketing’;

Inserting records into the table:

INSERT INTO department(dept_id,dept_name,numofemp) VALUES(‘2’,’Engineering’,’510’);

The SQL Server Syntax to create a table, selecting records from the table, updating the records in the table, and inserting records into the table is shown below.

Creating a table:

CREATE table Dep

Selecting records from the table:

SELECT *  
FROM Dep  
ORDER BY LastName;

Updating records in the table:

UPDATE Dep
SET LastName = 'Johnson'
WHERE employee_id = 10;

Inserting records into the table:

INSERT INTO Dep
(employee_id, LastName, FirstName)
VALUES(10, 'Anderson', 'Sarah');

4) Oracle vs SQL Server: Job Schedulers, Query Optimization & Triggers

Jobs are scheduled in Oracle via the Oracle scheduler or OEM. It uses the star optimization technique to optimize its query performance. Triggers are a set of rules applied to databases to maintain the relationships between attributes in the database. Oracle uses both before and after triggers in its database.

Jobs are scheduled in SQL Server via the SQL Server Agent. It does not use any query optimization technique and mostly uses after triggers in its database.

5) Oracle vs SQL Server: Mode of Execution & Backups

All the major SQL statements in Oracle like INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE, and MERGE are executed in parallel. Oracle maintains differential, full, file-level, and incremental backups of its data regularly.

The major SQL statements in SQL Server like INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE, and MERGE are executed serially. SQL Server maintains full, partial, and incremental backups of its data regularly.

6) Oracle vs SQL Server: Rollback & Redo Streams

When transactions take place in Oracle, they can be rolled back. It also supports one redo stream that is available at the database level.

When transactions take place in SQL Server, they cannot be rolled back. Also, every user has his own redo stream.

7) Oracle vs SQL Server: Support, Troubleshooting & Error Handling Capabilities

The customer care, troubleshooting, and support of Oracle are available 24×7 and answer your queries in a timely manner, but you will be charged for each support call depending on the support case. Error Handling is also managed efficiently as Oracle treats each new database transaction as a new connection.

SQL Server, on the other hand, provides technical notes, bug descriptions, scripts, patches, and updates without any additional charges. However, the error handling capabilities in SQL Server are not very elaborate as SQL Server executes each command separately and so it is quite difficult to rectify any errors encountered in the process.

8) Oracle vs SQL Server: Data Accessing Methods

Oracle makes use of bitmaps and indexes to access data in its database. Also, data values are only changed after an explicit commit statement. This ensures consistency of data and helps rollback transactions to their previous state, in case any errors are faced.

SQL Server does not use bitmap indexes to access data in its database. Instead, it uses reverse keys and functions to access data. Data Values can change even before being committed in SQL Server. This can cause issues in identifying errors and correcting them.

9) Oracle vs SQL Server: Automation Support, Parallel Execution & Shareability

Oracle offers automation support through its database upgrade assistant. It also supports parallel query execution and incorporates multiple database schemas/blueprints into one instance. The subset collection of these database schemas are shared between all the schemas and users.

SQL Server offers automation support through the SQL upgrade advisor. It does not support parallel query execution and every database has its own unshared file disk on the server.

10) Oracle vs SQL Server: Pricing Models

The pricing model for Oracle is designed to fit the company’s budget and goals. Oracle offers 4 editions for their customers- Oracle Database Standard Edition 2, Oracle Database Enterprise Edition, Oracle Database Personal Edition, and Oracle Database Express Edition. The Express Edition is free for students and is portable on any machine. 

To use all the other editions, you need to make a small payment. Companies can decide on each edition based on the rates they are charged. In order to use an edition, companies need to contact the Oracle team and they will give the details on the pricing.

The editions that Oracle offers are shown below:

Oracle Pricing Model
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To learn more about the Pricing of Oracle, click this link.

The pricing model of SQL Server comes in 2 main editions- Standard and Enterprise. Both these editions are free of charge and have 4 main subdivisions: Standard Edition costs $3,586, Enterprise Edition costs $13,748, Standard Server Edition costs $899 and the Standard CAL Edition costs $209.

The pricing model for SQL Server is given below.

SQL Server Pricing Model
Image Source

To learn more about the Pricing of SQL Server, click this link

Challenges of Oracle

Although Oracle is a popular database with regular patches, unique and innovative features, it does have a few limitations. Some of those challenges include:

  • Oracle’s Enterprise Edition is the only free edition and it is licensed only for commercial purposes. This means that very few people can access and learn it.
  • All of the prices, updates, and patch notes are only known to Oracle Corporation, which means that the public cannot try and come up with a solution for various problems. This reduces the transparency of the product.
  • Learning the syntax of Oracle is a little complex as compared to the traditional SQL syntax used by popular RDBMSs and also NoSQL databases like MongoDB.

Despite these challenges, Oracle has numerous advantages that companies can leverage into their business processes.

Challenges of SQL Server

Now that you have a good idea about SQL Server, it is now important to understand some of its challenges. The challenges of SQL Server are:

  • SQL Server is a less powerful database purely in terms of software design and processing power.
  • It has poor indexing and data accessing features.
  • In some cases, the relationship between objects and relations can get corrupted.

Despite these challenges, SQL Server has managed to be in the top positions and many organizations still continue to use it in their organizations.

Conclusion

This article gave a comprehensive analysis of the 2 popular database technologies in the market today: Oracle and SQL Server. It gives a brief overview of both the databases and their features and challenges. It also gave the parameters to judge each of the databases. Overall, the Oracle to SQL Server choice solely depends on the goal of the company and the resources it has.

Oracle is a better choice if your company needs to have a faster processing power backed up by strong software. Oracle has unique features like parallel query processing, timely customer support services, and 24×7 error handling capabilities. SQL Server is a good option if speed and processing power are not your main concern. Even non-technical users can learn it faster than Oracle and it has most of the features of other traditional RDBMSs. Either way, both databases are assets for your business and will help manage your customers and employees in tandem.

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