Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Open Source Databases at Oracle Open World

Open source databases still have a very long way to catch up to Oracle. I was at Oracle Open World touring the exhibits on Tuesday. Just for fun I asked everyone I met whether they used open source databases or saw demand for them in their businesses. The answer almost universally went like this: "No."

One simple reason explains much of the Oracle dominance as well as the inertia of many companies in switching to something else. A huge number of enterprise applications like Siebel or SAP run on Oracle. MySQL and PostgreSQL applications on the other hand are either custom code or belong to an area where open source is truly dominant, such as web site content management. Even when more applications run on open source, most companies will adopt them as supplements to existing systems, not as wholesale replacements. Oracle and other commercial databases will continue to rule enterprises for a very long time.

A lot of the focus in open source database development is on matching capabilities of commercial databases. What many open source users really need is the ability to integrate. That in turn depends on features like heterogeneous replication as well as bulk loading. These are not on the road maps of most open source database projects. However, they will be one of the factors that eventually enables open source to break out into a much bigger arena.


Mark Callaghan said...

By which metrics does Oracle dominate? Certainly by dollars, but not as much by usage. Once you include the number of transactions, queries, rows and other resource consumption for open-source databases at the new database apps used at Internet companies, I suspect that dominance usually claimed by IBM mainframe DBMS and by Oracle probably is much less.

Robert Hodges said...

Here's an interesting metric to consider: users at the user group conference. The 2008 MySQL Conference had around 2000 attendees. That's pretty big; PostgreSQL conferences are usually in the hundreds at most. Oracle Open World claims 43,000 this year. It's driven obviously by apps as well as the database, but the entire ecosystem is huge. The attendance is probably a good proxy for overall penetration of Oracle in businesses.

So it depends on which market segment you are talking about. For enterprise applications, I would guess Oracle dominates all FOSS databases put together by just about any meaningful metric you could name. It gets interesting when you look at non-enterprise apps like...Google.

Jeffrey McManus said...

Well of course they're going to say that. No professional technologist is ever in a hurry to invalidate his skills. Learning new things is hard.

Robert Hodges said...

There's no question that Oracle Open World attendees have a certain point of view. However, a lot of the people with whom I spoke are business people with no axe to grind--for example consultants who go where the money is. They just don't see the market for MySQL or PostgreSQL with their customers.

Sheeri K. Cabral said...

I'd say that they're not seeing demand because the barrier to entry is so low. Similarly, they don't think they're using it, but probably their ticketing system or monitoring system (run by the systems department) is actually using Postgres or MySQL.

There isn't *demand* because 1) they're not focusing on it. When you say "I'm an Oracle consultant" you don't really hear "do you know any good MySQL consultants?" (I don't hear the opposite, even though I do know plenty of good Oracle consultants).

and there isn't demand because 2) whoever installed the open source database is likely maintaining it.

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