Sunday, April 14, 2024

Oracle vs. SQL Server – an Issue of Complexity

Software is only as complicated as its developers make it.

It seems like a very profound sentence but it is so true and it is relevant to all commercial software that I know of. Let’s take a test case of a certain piece of software most of us have probably encountered.

I’m talking about SQL server. I am warning you in advance that I’m going to kick some Oracle butt, because they really [explitive deleted -Jay] me off a few days ago. Don’t take it personally.

Just the other day, I installed both a SQL Server 2000 database and an Oracle 8i (8.1.7 Release 3) database to do some tests on one of our products. I started out with SQL server because I knew I was going to run into trouble with Oracle (call me psychic). Within 5 minutes, I had my SQL Server 2000 database up and running. Inserting my test data and running my tests were also a breeze.

Next, I attempted to install Oracle. It took over 30 minutes just to answer all of the damn questions. It then decided (without asking me) that it would install itself with OS Authentication. I have installed a lot of Oracle Servers before, and it has never before unilaterally decided on things as long as I used Custom Installation mode.

After that, I couldn’t create the database because I didn’t have the credentials. This is despite the fact that I was the administrator of the server. I had to hunt down a small configuration file that disabled the OS authentication, so that I could continue my work. Later, I was forced to configure an Alias and a bunch of all other stuff. This took me an additional 30 minutes to do.

I had to set-up the full text indexing feature for both the SQL Server database and the Oracle database. In SQL Server, this was a simple task. Everything was configurable via menus. A right-click here, a double-click there, and it was all up and running. In Oracle, there is a cartridge that you have to install. I had forgotten this, of course, and it doesn’t state “Full Text Indexing”. It says interMedia, which is a cartridge that adds a lot more than just full text indexing. Then, I needed to create an index of the column that I wanted to full text index.

I also discovered that it needs to do an RPC call to itself, using some kind of port. It was supposed to configure this by itself, but of course, it didn’t.

Product testing with Oracle has been a hellish experience. I still haven’t finished everything yet, because I still have some configuration problems with the damn thing. No wonder people turn to SQL Server.

I haven’t even mentioned the horrible user interface implemented in the Oracle administration tools. I have used a lot of Oracle’s previous versions. In version 8.0.5 (which wasn’t an 8i version), they had a reasonable user interface. In Oracle 8i (meaning 8.1.x), they completely changed the UI, and I’m sure in Oracle 9i it will be completely different again. They wanted to save some code and wrote the whole thing in Java. This move holds merit from a technical standpoint, but it is not very practical in the usability department. The Windows version is far too slow and has a lot of screen painting problems. Also, a lot of Oracle’s features are noticeably missing from the UI. Sadly, these features are only accessible via cryptic command line syntax or by sifting through lengthy and confusing configuration files. Now I know why Oracle consultants get paid so much money.

Another problem that I have with Oracle is low-end scalability. I can use MSDE (Microsoft Data Engine), which is a scaled-down (yet feature-rich) version of SQL Server. It has a database size limitation of 2 GB and can only handle up to 5 concurrent users. To scale up, I can simply install the full-blown version of SQL Server and attach the database. That’s all there is to it.

Have you ever tried using Oracle Lite? It’s similar to the normal Oracle, but a little less “heavy”. To scale up, you have to install a bigger server which will take a few years out of your life.

While that last statement is obviously an exaggeration, it just proves my point that software is only as complicated as its developers make it. Oracle developers take the complicated route, while Microsoft emphasizes powerful simplicity through their SQL Server product.

Eran Sandler:

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