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Database Wars: Who Has the Edge?

I found all kinds of interesting stuff in Information Technology Intelligence Corp.'s recent 2010 Database Deployment Trends Survey, which predicts more companies will be upgrading their infrastructure this year, thus allowing database vendors a rare chance to persuade customers to switch their RDBMS allegiances.

Usually, the cost and hassle of switching database systems is prohibitive.

In a blog posted Thursday titled "Database Competition Heats Up," ITIC wrote:

A wholesale switch from one platform to another requires significant capital expenditure monies. Additionally, the business must also invest a lot of time and energy in converting to a new platform, testing new applications, rewriting scripts and re-training DBAs and getting them certified on the new environment. For CIOs, CTOs and IT departments this prospect has roughly the same appeal as having root canal without Novocain.

But with companies scrambling to remain competitive after two and half years of cutting costs amid the economic downturn, they will be upgrading their systems and possibly switching their vendors, ITIC said.

The research firm concluded: "What will distinguish the DBMS market this year is that the always intense and vociferous vendor rivalries will heat up even more over the next 12 months."

So I wondered which of the Big 4 database vendors have an advantage going forward, specifically related to the developer community. So I asked.

Here is the reply from ITIC principal Laura DiDio:

IBM and Microsoft are very well positioned at present and over the next 12 months. IBM's DB community is solid, stable and very loyal.

The fact that 72 percent of survey respondents said they hadn't switched DB platforms in the last three years and the fact that it's harder for very large enterprises in market segments like banking, financial and insurance (traditional IBM strongholds) to switch because of the legacy investment, bodes well for IBM. Many of these enterprises have mature DB environments that are stable for many years.

In Microsoft's case the improvements to the SQL Server 2008 platform which make it more enterprise ready and the fact that Microsoft has a very strong developer community, combined with a vibrant reseller channel, puts Microsoft in a good position to expand its presence into SME and enterprise organizations.

As for Oracle, the developer community -- particularly Open Source developers -- are watching and waiting to see if Oracle will remain true to its word and continue to support and develop for MySQL and integrate that platform into their other offerings as they've promised.

Oracle also faces other challenges. Their many acquisitions over the last three years could prove to be an unwelcome distraction and cause the company to not provide enough support to its developers. That said, on the plus side, Oracle's most recent second quarter financials were very strong. This was largely attributable to strong demand for new software license renewals and maintenance plans.

In the most recent quarter, Oracle reported revenue of $5.858 billion. Of that figure, $3.247 billion was software maintenance revenue and $1.653 billion came from new software licenses. Common sense dictates that if so many of Oracle's customers are upgrading their DB licenses, then they'll be upgrading their applications as well. So, while Oracle does have some specific challenges that IBM and Microsoft will undoubtedly attempt to exploit, it remains very strong.

Sybase has a strong following but it lacks the deep pockets of IBM or Microsoft to market on the same scale. And marketing and positioning will be key elements of DB success in 2010. It's going to be a real dogfight for market share and licensing renewals.

Are you planning an upgrade? Might you switch vendors? Who looks good to you? Comment here or send me an e-mail.

Posted by David Ramel on 02/22/2010

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