My first experience of ‘proper’ databases was using Ingres back in 1994 while working for an obscure part of Customs & Excise (as it was). We could get a soundex person search from Inverness to return probable matches in under 8 secs from the central server in Southend which had 48 million records in, so not too shabby. Anyway outsourcing arrived and I departed for the real world and never saw Ingres again .. until last week!
Now I see that Microsoft have bought an all in one BI appliance company DATAllegro which is essentially BI in a box capable of handling hundreds of terabytes of data. The current solution is based on good old Ingres. Of course this will be re-engineered onto the Microsoft platform, without losing the scale as this would be missing the point of the acquisition.
In an another SQL Server related acquisition a small Israeli start up Zoomix brings in dedicated data quality tools like automated in line data correction. Zoomix also has a master data management tool, however Microsoft acquired an MDM specialist, Stratature, last year and plans to incorporate this into SharePoint 14.
IMO this is the way to go, don’t be too proud to admit you may not have all the answers but pick up niche applications that augment a strategic direction. Equally Microsoft does still write the odd bit of code in the BI space such as SQL Server itself and Performance Point Server, and hasn’t really been involved in the huge acquisitions that have taken place in the last couple of years.