Although Microsoft's Windows NT 5.0 will offer organizations substantially more scalability than NT 4.0 does, I don't recommend your waiting for that release to "get your feet wet" with NT databases. Indeed, probably the most common question I get these days is "Which NT database should I get--Oracle or SQL Server?" Yes, there are NT versions of IBM's DB2 Universal Database 5.0, Sybase's Adaptive Server 11.5 and Informix's products, but Oracle and Microsoft are seen as having the strongest market dynamics in the NT space.

Oracle, the market leader, has a lot of things going for it. When it launched Oracle8 Universal Server last fall, it beat Microsoft to the punch with an object/relational database. (Most observers, however, rated the latest version of IBM's DB2, Version 5, also known as Universal Database or UDB, as technically superior to Oracle8. UDB 5.0 shipped with four "extenders," while Oracle8 added support for unstructured data via the new BFILE pointer datatype.) The current version of Microsoft SQL Server, Version 6.5, however, lacks the object/relational features of either DB2 UDB or even Oracle8. Microsoft's approach to the "universal" database market relies on OLE DB, the "universal data access" component of Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) and Distributed COM (DCOM). SQL Server 7.0, expected midyear, will add universal row-level locking (6.5 has very limited row-level locking), better support for large binary objects and some sort of integration with Microsoft's forthcoming OLAP server, code-named Plato.

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