Customers Win in Database Vendors Race to Linux

Opinion: Linux is profoundly shaking up the database market, hopefully to customers' benefit.

Two splashy Linux announcements coming from major database vendors underscore the fact that Linux is profoundly shaking up the database market.

First, Oracle on Tuesday announced that its latest database, as well as a slew of its other technologies, is now available on Novells latest enterprise Linux operating system, SLES (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server) 9.

For its part, Sybase announced on the same day that its putting its ASE (Adaptive Server Enterprise) RDBMS on IBMs Linux-specific eServer OpenPower-based systems.

The spin on the Sybase announcement was that the IBM partnership was a) a last, desperate attempt for Sybase to stage a comeback against database competitors, and b) that its an arrow from IBM aimed squarely at Suns heart.

Sybases market share has been pretty miniscule of late, so its easy to see where the first spin comes from. Jim Johnson, president of The Standish Group, pointed out that Sybase, which has a very long-standing relationship with Sun as a hardware vendor, has been struggling to gain the attention of IBM and HP. A few years ago, the company announced availability on Apple systems, as well.

As far as these hardware overtures go, though, the IBM/Linux fit is a good one and might be just the ticket to get Sybase the market share it needs. As it is, Sybase has a good presence in Unix databases. Making the jump to Linux is a logical step, Forrester Researchs Noel Yuhanna tells me, and one in which Sybase can leverage its considerable roster of customers in the financial, retail and insurance sectors.

As it is, the Sybase announcement was planned to take place in front of an audience of 700 customers at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday evening. Thats the largest event in Sybases history, according to David Jacobson, senior director of product marketing for Sybases data management and tools product lines, and it underscores the fact that Sybase is willing to swap its considerable clout in financial services for IBMs similar clout in Linux.

All this emphasis on Linux has one objective: to rule Microsoft out of the picture. Now, we need to remember that Microsofts SQL Server database sprang from Sybase database technology, Johnson said. Microsoft OEMed Sybases product, putting it on Windows, as a precursor to what eventually became SQL Server.

SQL Server users are currently locked out of Linux, obviously. What Sybase offers is a chance for them to move to a database that may be somewhat compatible with SQL Server—i.e., ASE—and yet runs on Linux.

"Linux is growing," Johnson said. "Its eating into Microsofts base. As well as the Unix base. So this is a very good opportunity for Sybase to get back" some of the market Microsoft has gobbled up, he said.

Next Page: IBMs hot little chip.