Database Market Share: The Debate about Open Source

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Database Market Share: The Debate about Open Source

My post
on IDC’s “Worldwide
RDBMS 2006 Vendor Shares: Preliminary Results for the Top 5 Vendors

invoked some lively feedback on IDC’s approach to sizing the database market
and my perceived slight of open source databases, in particular MySQL.

I believe
I fell into a hornet’s nest of a debate between champions of open source
software (OSS) versus the “establishment.” Although I am old enough to be part of the
establishment that doesn’t mean that I am out of touch with reality.

The
feedback was initiated by James Governor in his Monkchips blog post Is MySQL
kicking Big Three Ass Or Not?

The
SearchEnterpriseLinux.com blog then posted Database market is exploding, but
how about MySQL?

providing its feedback on Governor’s comments on my post.

Let’s
start by saying that I enjoy Governor’s blog. I believe much of the differences
in this specific post debate between Governor and me are in perspective and
context. Let’s examine the differences:

Governor
states that IDC’s approach to simply using revenue to determine market share
results in“…unfortunately completely missing what’s really going on out there.
MySQL usage is exploding.”

  • I agree that simply counting revenue does not provide a full picture when databases may be free or much cheaper than others. This impacts OSS, but it also had underplayed Microsoft’s market impact for years too. Likewise, simply counting
         “downloads” (or installations) hyped by
    OSS database vendors greatly overstates these databases’ use in a real-world business settings. Governor states “there is currently no way to accurately track open source usage…”
    I agree we can’t determine world-wide usage or what the open source databases are being used for. But let’s not get caught up in marketing hype and equate downloads to usage.
  • Also, the context of my blog is about data warehousing, business intelligence and corporate performance management. In these markets the top three databases used are Oracle, IBM and Microsoft. Use any of the following criteria: revenue, databases in production or number of users and you’d get the same answer. You can
    quibble about percentages but the top vendors are still who IDC claims. There have been surveys examining what databases are being used for DW and BI and they have confirmed the Big Three vendors (and they were by numbers on deployments not revenue.) Gartner, Forrester and TDWI also rank the top three vendors the same as IDC.
  • MySQL may be used in “95% of Web 2.0 Services” as Governor asserts but even he admits “that number is plucked out of thin air, but feel free to challenge it.” Maybe that number is correct but it’s a completely different market than what we discuss in
      this blog.

Governor
took exception to my assertion that “Open source databases will gain more usage
and further expand the overall database marketplace (just as Microsoft is),
however, the rate of adoption may not be significant for a while.” Again, I
believe the difference in our opinions is based on context. The rate of
adoption I was discussing was for DW, BI and CPM implementations. The top three
vendors for DW, BI and CPM will not be displaced (but Microsoft may move up the
list…another debate looming?). The reasons for that assertion:

  • If it ain’t broken don’t fix it. Businesses and IT are too busy to undertake a costly database migration to shift to the latest flavor of the month, in this case an OSS database.
  • The people creating and supporting the database applications are experts in the product that they have deployed. Why would a company incur a retraining effort and why would an existing DBA want to give up his or her existing skills (and job?)
         Oracle DBAs probably would like to stay Oracle DBAs rather than
    OSS database DBAs. People and politics influence decisions.
  • Finally, and this is a debatable point, are OSS databases ready for the
    prime time of DW, BI and CPM? And much more importantly are they perceived
    as being ready? I think MySQL is a very solid database but what are the industry analytic groups saying (which is what people are hearing): The Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Data
         Warehouse Database Management Systems, 2006”, September 2006, states “MySQL is a possible choice for simple, small DWs to begin experimenting with OSS in IT organizations that are willing to accept the added risk of a new DBMS and the lack of a skill base in implementing, using and tuning MySQL for data warehousing.”

With the
Big Three database vendors increasing by revenue by double-digits and profit
margins very high, it is tough to answer yes to Governor’s post title “Is MySQL
kicking Big Three Ass or Not?” Certainly open source has had an impact on lower
pricing, but Microsoft might have been the more significant contributor to
that. This market is not a zero sum game meaning someone has to lose for
someone to gain. All database vendors can grow and profit from expanded use of
databases and market.

OSS database usage is expanding and may become a
significant force in the database market. Maybe they will even someday be used
extensively in DW, BI and CPM. But not now.

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