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Microsoft pairs OLAP, database

The company's forthcoming OLAP server, code-named Plato, will be included in its SQL Server 7.0 database due in the second half of the year.

Microsoft has made it official: its forthcoming online analytical processing (OLAP) server, code-named Plato, will be included as part of its SQL Server 7.0 database, due in the second half of the year.

The news is no big surprise. Analysts and industry insiders have speculated for months that Microsoft would twin the servers, which will both ship as part of the company's BackOffice server application bundle.

But Microsoft is not answering a more interesting question: how much will the SQL Server 7.0/Plato bundle cost?

Analysts have speculated that Microsoft would most likely attempt to cash in on Plato by slapping a fat price tag on it. And, if Plato is bundled with SQL Server 7.0, then many analysts predict a sharp price hike.

Not so, said Steve Murchie, data warehousing prod manager at Microsoft. "No dramatic changes are in store for the price of SQL Server," he said. Murchie would not disclose exact pricing for the new bundle.

"Customers are demanding better integrated OLAP tools, and we think [Plato] will have a positive impact on the OLAP industry," he said.

Competitors may not agree. The bundling decision could be bad news for Oracle and other players in the OLAP business.

Oracle now offers an OLAP server add-on called Oracle Express that is priced separately from its database.

Oracle, IBM, Sybase, and Informix Software are already battling Microsoft in the low end of the database market. SQL Server's relatively low price tag has forced both Oracle and Sybase to cut prices on NT-based software in order to remain competitive.

Also, smaller OLAP players, such as Arbor Software and Information Advantage, will now find the world's largest software company trudging through their backyards.

Murchie said Plato and SQL Server 7.0 will not require Windows NT 5.0, which isn't expected to debut until late this year at the earliest. Instead, the products will run on the current release, Windows NT Server 4.0. Microsoft will issue new versions of the servers to take advantage of NT 5.0, Murchie said.