Data Survey: Microsoft Fending Off Challengers, for Now

A new survey of database developers and other professionals shows Microsoft is maintaining its lead in the Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) and data warehousing arenas, but faces challenges from newcomers in Big Data and other markets.

Conducted by Progress Software Corp., the "Progress DataDirect 2014 Data Connectivity Outlook" survey purported to reveal "the rising stars in the database constellation." Developers constituted the largest group of respondents (36 percent of 300 existing customers surveyed), followed by CXOs and other management types.

For the RDBMS and enterprise data warehouse markets, respondents were asked about their data technologies currently in use and those expected to be implemented within the next two years. Although Microsoft (SQL Server) and Oracle unsurprisingly took the top two positions in current and projected usage in the RDBMS market, the survey "projects significant growth for emerging alternatives such as the community-developed MariaDB as well as the SAP HANA in-memory platform, over the next two years," Progress said this week.

In the enterprise data warehouse world, the top three technologies currently in use were again no surprise: SQL Server, Oracle and IBM DB2. However, all three were projected to show lower numbers in two years, while the current No. 4, Teradata, was expected to see higher usage. Amazon Redshift will reportedly show the biggest percentage increase in adoption, but is still expected to be in use by only slightly more than 10 percent of respondents in two years. SQL Server usage is expected to drop from being used by about 58 percent of respondents today to about 48 percent of respondents in two years.

Perhaps more of a surprise, Microsoft HD Insights was listed as the No. 2 Hadoop provider, following overwhelming market leader Apache's open source distribution, listed by more than 45 percent of respondents. Cloudera placed a close third, followed by Oracle DBA, Amazon EMR, IBM BigInsights, Hortonworks, MapR and Pivotal HD. This question asked respondents only what distribution they currently used or planned to use in the next two years, so there was no indication of growth over that period.

"With open-source Apache's low-cost of entry propelling its lead in the market, one can expect other big players in Big Data to further iterate their own unique value and perspectives when it comes to data storage within Hadoop databases like Hive, HBase and Cassandra," the survey report said. "Future competition from many of the large vendors may begin to change market distribution, but no significant changes are foreseen."

Another question concerned usage of NoSQL, NewSQL and non-relational databases, asking only which technologies were currently used or supported. Here, MongoDB held a large lead, used by nearly 40 percent of respondents, with SQLFire, Cassandra, HBase and CouchDB/Couchbase rounding out the top five of the 14 total products listed. reported a huge lead in respondents answering the question: "Which [Software as a Service ] SaaS applications do you or your customers currently use or support in your applications?" It was the choice of more than 40 percent of respondents, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online came in second, listed by more than 20 percent, followed by SAP Business ByDesign, and Intuit QuickBooks.

Progress said its first survey of this type "shows that while established vendors still hold significant share, a new set of rising stars--many of them lower-cost alternatives--are emerging in the data source world."

What do you think of the future of the database development landscape? Comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 02/03/2014 at 11:59 AM0 comments

What Languages Should You Learn in the New Web/Mobile World of 2014?

I've noted before how data-driven developers in general and SQL gurus in particular are pretty well set in terms of salary and job security. So I was curious how database skills fared in responses to a recent question: "It's 2014--Which New Technologies Should I Learn?"

An anonymous reader's "Ask Slashdot" posting on Wednesday read thusly:

"I've been a software engineer for about 15 years, most of which I spent working on embedded systems (small custom systems running Linux), developing in C. However, Web and mobile technologies seem to be taking over the world, and while I acknowledge that C isn't going away anytime soon, many job offers (at least those that seem interesting and in small companies) are asking for knowledge on these new technologies (Web/mobile). Plus, I'm interested in them anyway. Unfortunately, there are so many of those new technologies that it's difficult to figure out what would be the best use of my time. Which ones would you recommend? What would be the smallest set of 'new technologies' one should know to be employable in Web/mobile these days?"

I was so curious I combed through more than 370 comments to total up and compare the "technologies." Obviously, that's a broad term and could (and apparently did) mean just about anything, so I just focused on programming languages (as opposed to, say, "Learn to lie and [BS] with a straight face"). And I wasn't alone in wondering what constituted a "new technology."

Of course, this being Slashdot, the readers branched off on all kinds of bizarre tangents. It's amazing how these people can take the most insignificant, meaningless aspect of such a question and absolutely beat it to death. It's often pretty darn funny, though.

Anyway, a lot of Slashdot readers know their stuff, so I was interested in what they had to say, regardless of the wide range of possible interpretations of the question. My sampling is in no way scientific, or a real survey or even reliant upon any kind of reproducible methodology. I simply tried to total up the language suggestions I found in each of the comments. I didn't subtract votes when a suggestion was hammered by other readers with the inevitable vicious insults and snarkiness (some things will never change).

I guess the results were fairly predictable, but I was kind of disappointed in how database technologies in general ranked.

What was completely clear is that the overwhelming favorite is ... you guessed it: JavaScript. A rough grouping (not counting a lot of people who said just stick with C) looks something like this:

  • First: JavaScript
  • Second: Java
  • Third: PHP, HTML(5)
  • Fourth: Objective-C, Python
  • Fifth: Ruby, SQL, C++, C#
  • Sixth: HTTP, ASP.NET, CSS

Several dozen more languages were suggested in smaller numbers.

Being the resident Data Driver bloggist at Visual Studio Magazine, I was disappointed to see SQL so far down the list. Even totaling up all the other database-related languages, such as MySQL, SQLite, MongoDB and so on, wouldn't result in that impressive of a number (I stopped counting these when I realized none would total more than a few votes).

A couple of comments might shed some light on the prevailing attitudes out there. One commenter wrote: "RDBMSes are going to die, so learn how to interact with one of the major NoSQL databases. Most bleeding-edge: Titan and Neo4J, both graph databases."

Another wrote: "Some SQL is very useful but you don't need to be an expert--any serious Web development team will have a database expert who will do the DB stuff, you just need enough to code up test setups, prototypes and to talk to the DB guy."

I don't know exactly why "the DB guy" is separate from the rest of the Web dev team, or why the original poster couldn't be "the DB guy," but whatever.

The question was limited to the Web/mobile arena, remember, so it's not totally disheartening. I mean, there is this little thing called Big Data happening, and vendors are jumping all over themselves trying to come out with applications and packages and such to let the SQL guys and other "DB guys" join in the fun along with the Hadoop specialists and data scientists. But I guess nobody will be doing any Big Data stuff over the Web or with a mobile device.

And SQL didn't fare too badly in more broad examinations of this topic, earning a spot in "Top 10 Programming Languages to Know in 2014" and "10 Programming Languages You Should Learn in 2014." Also, of course, Transact-SQL was named "programming language of the year" for 2013 by TIOBE Software.

What do you think? What would be your top suggestions for staying current in this new world? Comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 01/24/2014 at 8:16 PM0 comments

Transact-SQL Named 'Programming Language of the Year' for 2013

Maybe it's not the sexiest programming language, but SQL continues to be relevant. In fact, TIOBE Software, which publishes a TIOBE Programming Community Index gauging the popularity of programming languages, named Transact-SQL the language of the year for 2013.

This "award" further emphasizes the importance of competency in SQL. I earlier wrote about how SQL gurus and other database-related programmers enjoyed excellent job security and how SQL Server developers were in high demand.

That's the good news. The bad news, according to TIOBE, "It is a bit strange that Transact-SQL wins the award because its major application field, Microsoft's database engine SQL Server, is losing popularity. The general conclusion is that Transact-SQL won because actually not much happened in 2013."

Not much happened in 2013? Wow, talk about strange. Has TIOBE heard of a little thing called Big Data?

Anyway, following Transact-SQL in popularity gains were Objective-C and F#. Objective-C had been the "language of the year" for the previous two years.

Microsoft fared well in other aspects, too, even regarding the much-maligned Windows Phone platform. As TIOBE wrote: "As we have seen the last decade, programming language popularity is largely influenced by external trends. The most important ones at the moment are mobile phone apps and web development. Android (mainly Java) and iOS (Objective-C) are the major mobile platforms, while Windows Phone (mainly C#) is catching up."

In index rankings, Transact-SQL went from No. 22 in January 2013 to No. 10 in January 2014. Otherwise, the rankings stayed the same for the top eight positions: C, Java, Objective-C, C++, C#, PHP and Python. The only other move in the top 10 was JavaScript going from 10th to the 9th spot.

In other attempts at ranking the popularity of programming languages, SQL was No. 12 in a list developed by last October. Meanwhile, Python garnered the "language of the year" prize in the Popularity of Programming Language (PYPL) index, which measures how often respective language tutorials show up in Google searches. No variants of SQL made the top 10. TIOBE said its ratings "are based on the number of skilled engineers world-wide, courses and third party vendors."

In Google Trends, searches for "SQL Programming Language" held fairly steady throughout 2013, except for a strange dip right at the end of the year.

How do you feel about the importance of keeping your SQL skills honed? Do these popularity rankings mean anything at all? Comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 01/16/2014 at 11:23 AM0 comments

SQL Continues to Crash the Big Data Party

Regardless of the future of the Microsoft ecosystem (and those latest quarterly numbers should slow the naysayers some), data developers can rest easy knowing their SQL Server skills are transferable in the New Data Order.


Posted by David Ramel on 11/07/2013 at 12:50 PM0 comments

SQL Server 2014 Takes Another Step Closer to Release

Microsoft today announced the availability of SQL Server 2014 CTP2, a near-final version highlighted by new in-memory capabilities formerly called Project Hekaton.


Posted by David Ramel on 10/16/2013 at 11:21 AM0 comments

WCF Data Services Catches Up to Entity Framework 6

Microsoft last week updated its latest WCF Data Services version so it will work with Entity Framework 6.

Rather than requiring the download of a new WCF DS version, the update to version 5.6.0 comes in the form of an out-of-band alpha1 NuGet package called, appropriately, WCF Data Services Entity Framework Provider.


Posted by David Ramel on 10/10/2013 at 6:41 AM0 comments

Dangers of Big Data

I was dropped by my previous auto insurance company for a couple of at-fault accidents on my wife's driving record.

Trouble was, she was not involved in those accidents in any way. They happened to somebody else and somehow got on her report from a data collection company used by the insurer. And, try as I might, I could not convince the insurance company of this. I provided the company with a note from my previous insurer confirming that those accidents were not hers. I even provided an official driving record from the state showing those weren't her accidents. It didn't make any difference to the insurance company (as much as I'd like to see the company burned to the ground in an agonizing bankruptcy, I won't name it, but it definitely wasn't on my side). The accidents were on the ChoicePoint report--that's all that mattered.


Posted by David Ramel on 09/19/2013 at 6:47 AM0 comments

Microsoft Hangs Tough with Cloud Data Developers

Microsoft may have been late to the cloud party, but its Windows Azure ranks near the top when it comes to popularity for data-related development, according to a new survey from Forrester.


Posted by David Ramel on 09/05/2013 at 1:57 PM0 comments

Entity Framework Gets Open Source Boost

The Microsoft Entity Framework has a spotty history of inconsistent release strategies, lagging feature requests and other issues, but things seem to be getting better with new leadership and even community contributions since it went open source.


Posted by David Ramel on 08/22/2013 at 8:00 AM0 comments

'Brain in a Box' Gets Us One Step Closer to the Borg

Here's a troublesome aspect of the Big Data revolution I didn't expect: the melding of mind and machine. IBM yesterday unveiled a completely new computer programming architecture to help process vast amounts of data, modeled on the human brain.


Posted by David Ramel on 08/09/2013 at 2:53 PM0 comments

Is Microsoft 'Turning the Screws' on SQL Server Standard Edition Users?

The SQL Server community this week engaged in a lively debate about limitations of the 2014 Standard Edition and Microsoft licensing practices.

The discussion--highlighted on Hacker News--was sparked by a post by database consultant/blogger Brent Ozar, titled "SQL Server 2014 Standard Edition Sucks, and It’s All Your Fault."


Posted by David Ramel on 07/31/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Premium Preview for SQL Database Now Available

Microsoft on Tuesday announced the availability of a Premium preview for Windows Azure SQL Database with beefed-up features for cloud-based business-class applications.


Posted by David Ramel on 07/25/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments

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