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Database Technology Compared

Overview of Popular Database Management Systems

 MySQL, SQL Server and Oracle 10g are software products that provide the ability to build portable relational databases. They are very reliable and scalable to accommodate large quantities of data and large numbers of users. These database environments are typically implemented on a Windows or Linux platform. They provide the tables for data storage and manage permission to use the information. The database storage, without forms, reports, and processing, is called the back-end. The following two approaches are the most common for delivering the user interface or front-end to these type of databases:

  1. Microsoft Access (a part of Microsoft Office Professional) or
  2. System of web pages viewed in a browser (intranet or internet)

Both provide affordability, and widespread familiarity. The cost and time to develop a user interface in either case is faster/cheaper than custom programming via compiled code, and is slower/more expensive than development with FileMaker.
      Access: Active Lightning's developers quote 3 to 16 hours of development time for each form or report which includes testing, implementation, and acceptance testing and does NOT include Visual Basic programming or visual design. The amount of development time depends on the complexity of the functional specification.
      Browser-based: Active Lightning's developers quote 20 to 35 hours of development time for each user-interface webpage which includes testing, implementation, and acceptance testing and does NOT include visual design. The amount of development time depends on the complexity of the functional specification.

Speed and the quantity of data determine which database technology to use. These database platforms have the means to distribute huge tables of data over multiple servers or storage devices. They are designed so that searches and query results will be delivered rapidly regardless of the number of users.

 Access includes both the front-end and back-end in one database application. Access is a popular easy-to-use database application with wizards that enable rapid development of queries, reports, and forms. However, Access performance suffers as the number of users and number of records increases, affecting speed, searches, and stability. Also, Access utilizes an ldb file for user-traffic control which can falter so that everyone must close out and start over. Thus, database applications that support a lot of data and/or many users utilize Access just for the front end. The connection between the front-end and back-end is accomplished via ODBC or ADO. Access runs on a Windows platform.

 FileMaker also includes both the front-end and back-end in one database application. FileMaker Pro is powerful and stable but enables rapid development. It is available for both Mac and Windows platform and can function across both platforms. Information is managed via layouts which function both as both forms and reports. Scripts (non-compiled code) provide powerful flexible automation and processing. Version 7 was recently released and has major differences from version 6. The container data-type allows storage of graphics and multi-media files as well as Word, Excel, Acrobat Pdf, and PowerPoint files. A FileMaker database can store up to 8 terabytes of data; an individual field contained in the database can store up to 2-4 gigabytes. Relational databases are easier to manage in 7 versus 6. Security and permissions are also very easy to manage.
      FileMaker Pro is the database environment preferred by MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Techology]. Decision-makers there have better things to do with their time than Visual Basic error checking (which is common for Access and SQL Server solutions).

How easy can it get?

SQL Server and Oracle offer tools and 3rd-party solutions to enable non-technical staff to build information management capability. Access and FileMaker also enable non-technical staff to do a lot. This supports the empowerment of as many people as possible to work with databases, which is great. It is worth noting, however, that the creation of the primary structure and processing is best left to trained professionals who understand about relational database definition, normalization, and performance optimization. The structure of a database matters.

What's the deal with MySQL?

Does MySQL, available at no charge, provide solid database capability like SQL Server and Oracle? The buzz on the street says “yes.” More and more businesses trust their data and critical applications to MySQL. There are certain situations such as large transaction databases or databases that serve multiple international locations or a need for .NET technology where SQL Server or Oracle may be preferable. Yet, the move towards general-public-use licensing is part of the historic trend towards decreasing costs for commodity IT products. The open source community actually provides a very robust, well-organized, committed group of developers that assures the viability and quality of software.
      Note that the licensing is free for MySQL as long as the application that is built with it will be made available to the world as an open-source application. If you want your solution to stay proprietary to your firm, then there is an annual subscription fee (very low-cost and applies to each server that hosts the database, not every user).

Internal users and database front-end

Each person in the organization who needs to use forms for entering, editing, and reading data will need to have both a license for the front-end and a license for the back-end. As noted above, the user-interface (i.e. front-end) is often implemented via a browser, which eliminates the need for front-end software licenses. With Access or FileMaker, staff members who do NOT need to enter or edit data can view reports provided via Excel, pdf file, or hard copy in order to save on license costs.


External users and the internet

An organization also makes decisions about how its database management system interfaces with the internet. Databases are utilized to provide product, service, and pricing information to website visitors. Databases are also used to collect information from customers, vendors, and/or website visitors. Information in both cases can be a part of the target database system that a company wants.There are several strategies depending on a client's requirements.
      Typically, businesses use one of these two approaches: a) SQL Server on a Windows server with ASP (active server pages) for server-side programming or b) MySQL on a Linux server with PHP for server-side programming [LAMP stack: Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP / Perl / Python].

Pricing Considerations

The primary costs associated with a database application project are:

  • software licenses for the database environment: front-end and back-end
  • software development
  • annual maintenance
  • training

1)  Database licenses for front-end and back-end of new database system; this can be $0 if a browser-based interface is chosen for the front-end, and MySQL is chosen for the back-end; however, development costs for a browser-based interface costs more and takes longer than solutions created with Access or FileMaker.

2)  Active Lightning development services to achieve the desired functionality for the database system. In order to get an accurate assessment of cost and time-to-produce, the project must be well-defined. Each button, function, or screen requires professional labor, paid at an hourly rate. In order to make a commitment about the expected deliverables, the process to get there, and the cost to get there, a formal design specification document is required. The design spec requires the time of professionals to assess, consult, research, imagine, test, plan, and quote. Thus, an organization must expect to pay some money to obtain a formal design specification prior to receiving a quote.

Pricing (as of March 15, 2006)

When a database is used for storing and maintaining information via web pages that are open to an unlimited number of users, then a company needs a database licensed per processor with (unlimited users). This type of license costs substantially more than the conventional client/server licensing.

Note: All prices are in U.S. dollars and reflect pricing for purchases within the United States.

FileMaker: Pricing and Licensing
Can purchase a company or site license that covers all FileMaker products, very cost-effective

Depending on an organization's network, the need for cross-platform utility, and the number of users who need to access the database, FileMaker Server is needed to host and serve out FileMaker databases enterprise-wide.

Edition Pricing Benefit Restraints Key Features

Pro 8

$229 per seat

Runs on a Macintosh or Windows computer. Applications are portable to either; Mac user can pass a FileMaker database to a Windows user and visa-versa

1 client workstation

8 terabytes [TB]

can share database with up to 5 users (same OS platform)

cross-platform: Mac or PC

very stable

enables rapid development of screens, forms, reports, menus, and processing scripts

Pro 8

$499 per seat

Same as FileMaker Pro 8 for database characteristics; includes developer tools

1 client workstation

8 terabytes [TB]

developer tools

make a kiosk/stand-alone application that does not need a FileMaker license to run

Server 8

$999 per server

Not a database itself; rather hosts multiple databases while governing cross-platform and multi-user access.

hosts 250 concurrent FileMaker Pro clients and 125 open database files, each capable of holding thousands of tables

Cross-platform, simultaneous access to hosted databases from Macintosh and Windows computers


Supports a mix of FileMaker 7 and 8 clients

One-click enabling of SSL encryption of data transferred between Server and Pro clients

Server-side plug-in architecture with auto-update capabilities

Server 8

$2,499 per server

Not a database itself; rather hosts multiple databases and governs multi-user access. This is an enhanced version of FileMaker Server 8 that lets administrators securely manage and deploy shared FileMaker Pro 8 and 7 database files over networks, intranets, and the Internet.

100 users accessing a hosted database via http

50 ODBC connections

250 FileMaker users

Serve data simultaneously to up to 100 web-based clients, 50 ODBC/JDBC clients, and 250 FileMaker Pro 8 and 7 clients

ODBC, JDBC and XML support

Instant web publishing capabilities and custom web publishint support

Create custom web solutions that integrate with existing websites using XML and XSLT

Microsoft Access: Pricing and Licensing [bold type indicates a feature that is new vs 2003 ed.]
Edition Pricing Benefit Restraints Key Features


included in Office Prof.


($109 to upgrade)

($499 for Office Professional)

volume licensing available, min 5 users.

A single Access license allows an Access database to be stored on a server and accessed by the number of users who are licensed

255 users

2 gigabytes [GB] minus the space needed for system objects

can build a run-time application using Visual Studio for Office; then the resulting database application can be distributed and used without the need for individual user licenses

rapid development of screens, forms, reports, menus, and macros

SQL Server 2005:  Pricing and Licensing  [bold type indicates a feature that is new vs 2003 ed.]
Edition Pricing Benefit Restraints Key Features



Fastest way to learn, build, and deploy simple data-driven applications.

1 gigabyte (GB) RAM
4 GB database size

4 GB database size
Simple Reporting
Replication and SSB Client


$3,900 per processor
$739 (server + 5 users)

Most affordable and easiest-to-use database solution for smaller departments and growing businesses.

1 or 2 CPUs

Management Studio
Limited Replication Publishing
Back-up Log Shipping


$6,000 per processor
$2,799 (server + 10 users)

Complete data management and analysis platform for medium businesses and larger departments.

1 to 4 CPUs
Unlimited RAM

Database Mirroring
Basic ETL
Standard OLAP Server with Analysis Services
Standard Reporting with Reporting Services
Data Mining
Full Replication and SSB Publishing
Available in native 32- and 64-bit editions
Supports Itanium 2 and x64


$25,000 per processor
$13,500 (server + 25 users)

Fully integrated data management and analysis platform for business-critical enterprise applications.

Unlimited Scale and Partitioning

Advanced database mirroring, complete online and parallel operations, and database snapshot
Advanced analysis tools including full OLAP and data mining
Advanced reporting with customized, high-scale, and ad hoc reporting
Advanced ETL with complex data routing and transformation capabilities
Available in native 32- and 64-bit editions
Supports Itanium 2 and x64

Oracle 10g:  Pricing and Licensing 
  • easy to install and manage, with numerous automated management features
  • complete with tools to quickly build web applications
  • suitable for all data, all applications and all platforms, including Windows and Linux
Edition Pricing Benefit Restraints Key Features



entry-level, small-footprint database; can be installed on any size host machine with any number of CPUs

4GB of user data,
max 1GB of memory
1 CPU on the host machine


$149 per user
(5 user minimum)

For small-to-midsize businesses or departmental systems running on two-processor servers; comes with Oracle Application Express to consolidate data from Access databases and Excel spreadsheets on distributed desktops and give users the ability to access and update shared data from a web browser.

5-250 users

1 or 2 CPUs

release 2

Either $300 per Named User Plus (minimum of 5 Users); or $15,000 per CPU (4 max) for unlimited use

Full-featured database for small-to-midsize businesses that require a lower cost

1-1000 users

up to around 500 Gb of data

Available on single or clustered servers with up to 4 CPUs

available 24/7 and scalable on demand with Oracle Real Application Clusters

fully upgradeable to Oracle Database 10g Release 2 Enterprise Edition


Either $800 per Named User Plus (minimum of 25 Users per CPU); or $40,000 per CPU for unlimited use.

For enterprises of any size

25-6 billion users

up to 8 Exabytes in size

available all the time

proven security assurance

MySQL 5.0:  Pricing and Licensing
Edition Pricing Benefit Restraints Key Features

Pro Certified

General Public License:
free for open-source applications (i.e. public release of complete source code), or for personal use with no distribution

Commercial License:
varies by case, contact MySQL AB for pricing

designed for enterprise organizations delivering business critical database applications

no user restraints

1 computer whether client or server

no restrictions on the number of connections, number of CPUs, memory or disks to the computer hosting the MySQL database

ACID Transactions to build reliable and secure business critical applications

Stored Procedures to improve developer productivity

Triggers to enforce complex business rules at the database level

Archive Storage Engine for historical and audit data

Distributed Transactions (XA) to support complex transactions across multiple databases

Federated Storage Engine to create a single logical database from many physical servers

Graphical Tools:
MySQL Workbench MySQL Query Browser MySQL Administrator MySQL Migration Toolkit


contact MySQL AB for pricing

delivers a fault tolerant database clustering architecture for deploying highly available mission-critical database applications

combines MySQL Pro Certified with a fault tolerant database clustering architecture so you can deliver mission-critical database applications with 99.999% availability

parallel server architecture combines database nodes, management server nodes, and application nodes that can be distributed across computers and geographies to ensure there is no single point of failure

no user restraints

no size restraints, scalable across multiple servers

main memory clustered database solution

extremely fast failover time with sub-second response so applications can recover quickly in the event of application, network or hardware failure


per CPU or named user:

not quoted for SAP apps

$1490 for non-SAP apps

the result of a strategic alliance between MySQL and SAP to jointly develop and market an open source database for SAP/R3


per server per year:


MySQL 5.0 Pro Certified database with additional support and services. You can choose the level of service you want from Basic to Platinum

enterprise-grade software

support and services to develop & deploy business-critical applications

proactive alerts

access to Knowledge Base of hundreds of technical articles

Active Lightning

  • supplies custom applications that fit client needs/specifications precisely
  • provides ownership and control rather than subscription pricing
  • delivers a low total cost of ownership
  • a quote and follow-on services are provided at rates given by Active Lightning’s standard price list See Pricing.

When you hire Active Lightning, you hire a team of intelligent creative trustworthy people led by Sally Seaver Shabaka. In delivering specified IT functionality, we attend to technical design, cost-containment, sustainability, marketing and the client’s brand. We thoughtfully work for our client’s best interests on many levels.

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