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Posted Dec 8, 2004

Oracle Migration Workbench - Part 4

By Steve Callan

At the end of Part Three, we finished installing SQL Server and created a user account that has access to the Northwind database. In Part Four, we will go into more detail about SQL Server and how it compares to Oracle. This part of the series also covers the setup and preparation to use Oracle Migration Workbench to migrate the Northwind database from SQL Server to Oracle.

SQL Server versus Oracle

To be more precise, that is SQL Server 2000 versus Oracle9i. By and large, I believe the supporters of each product are firmly encamped, that is, they believe theirs is THE database product and all others pale in comparison. In a segmented market where product share is widely distributed by platform and type of user, there is no reason to fault anyone for his or her belief about which product is the best, because "best" for one person may not be "best" for the other. There is an historical analogy, which parallels the RDBMS "mine is the best" mindset, and it has to do with word processing.

If you were on computers in the late 1980's/early 1990's, you may recall the word processing war among WordStar, WordPerfect, MultiMate, DisplayWrite and the emerging Microsoft product called Word. Lotus had something too as I recall. Whichever product you started with, you tended to stay with it. My favorite was a product named ProWrite, and it was definitely Off-Broadway in terms of being an actor. Who rules today? Microsoft Word has become, for all practical purposes, the lingua franca of the word processing world. One of the top hits on a Google search for MultiMate is about a cow mating program. Ouch. Not to mention all those brain cells I stressed trying to remember the 40-plus MultiMate Ctrl-Alt-Shift F-whatever keystroke combinations to make a document look halfway decent - who would put up with a program like that in today's world of software?

Part of the purpose of this series, as far as Oracle DBAs are concerned, is to provide some background for you about other RDBMS products (MySQL and SQL Server as mentioned, and this may extend to DB2). For open source, inexpensive database needs for a small web site, MySQL certainly fills the bill. As a small-to-medium business, the answer is a bit murky as to which product suits your need. Pricing, performance, ease of use, and reliability are critical considerations is selecting a product.

If you are coming from the Oracle world and you take the time and effort to get into some of the features of SQL Server, you are going to walk away with both of these impressions:

1) "Wow, I wish Oracle did that."

2) "Gee, I hope Oracle does that in its next release."

SQL Server's interface and easily accessible functionality, presented either via GUI-based menus or supplied by ready-to-use scripts and procedures, is far superior to what Oracle offers out of the box, and that superiority extends to something you only get once: a chance to make a first impression. The appearance of SQL Server tools, by the very nature of its one and only platform, capitalizes on the Windows look and feel. Oracle, on the other hand, uses Java-based GUI interfaces, which, without getting into Java's limitations on GUI, just does not have the same pizzazz as a true Windows-based interface. Then again, you will not see SQL Server on a UNIX-based platform. The "Which is the better server platform, Windows or UNIX?" debate is for someone else to moderate.

If you have a firm grasp of Oracle's architecture, learning SQL Server's setup is a relative breeze. You know what has to be done or what should take place in Oracle, so your task is to learn how SQL Server accomplishes the same things. However, there are several key differences in the "how" department.

A quick overview of the differences at this point will be helpful. There are plenty of other sources which cover these differences. A Prentice Hall book titled "Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Database Administrator's Guide" is one such reference. It includes a chapter about migrating from Oracle to SQL Server, and you can see how Microsoft's approach to what makes a database work is similar and different from Oracle's approach. The documentation which comes with Migration Workbench includes a side-by-side comparison of these database systems. SQL Server, like Oracle, runs on ACID. That's "ACID" as in Atomic, Consistent, Isolated, and Durable. If a database system can't pass the acid test, so to speak, you cannot be certain about the accuracy and consistency of its data, and without that, what good is it?

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