Open-Source Databases MySQL, PostgreSQL, Adoption Rising

Open-source databases MySQL and PostgreSQL are gaining steam, but rip-and-replace situations where MySQL and PostgreSQL replace Oracle Database, IBM DB2 or Microsoft SQL Server databases remain rare.

The open-source database market is continuing its upswing, and shows no signs of slowing down.

A market update by Forrester Research puts the value of the open-source database market at $850 million, which includes software licensing, technical support and services. By 2010, the authors of the report estimate that figure will jump to $1.2 billion as enterprises look to open-source databases to support Web 2.0 applications and other workloads.

Most interestingly, this growth is happening despite the fact that enterprises are generally not in a hurry to rip out proprietary databases and replace them with open-source technology. Partly, this is due to enterprises being slow to use open-source databases for mission-critical applications. Recent research by The 451 Group, for example, found that enterprises were generally using open source to avoid paying for additional database licenses from proprietary vendors for new projects in specific application areas, such as development and testing environments.

But there are also other reasons, such as the cost of a migration and the amount of work involved, said Noel Yuhanna, one of the authors of the Forrester report.

"Enterprises would like to rip and replace commercial DBMS[es] in favor of open source, but it's a technology challenge-it's not straightforward," the Forrester analyst said. "Every DBMS has proprietary things such as SQL extensions, integration and APIs, which makes migrating very complex. Even today, there have been some solutions that can help automate the migration of one DBMS with another, but it's not 100 percent, it's like 80 to 85 percent, which leaves the remaining work to be done manually."

Back in April, Zack Urlocker, vice president of products for Sun Microsystems' Database Group, told eWEEK that the company was more focused on ensuring that MySQL is the No. 1 database for online applications than replacing the traditional client/server database.

"We continue to focus on large-scale Web applications, enterprise 2.0 applications that leverage Web infrastructure, telecommunications and other growth areas," Urlocker said via e-mail.

Given how rare replacement projects are, it's not surprising open-source vendors are investing more in targeting new deployments than in improving their migration capabilities, said Matt Aslett, an analyst with The 451 Group.

"Even EnterpriseDB, which offers proprietary Oracle-compatible functionality on top of PostgreSQL, is pitched more at Oracle avoidance projects than Oracle replacement projects," Aslett said.

One of the most commonly heard knocks on open source is a lack of support. But when Sun purchased MySQL earlier in 2008, many observers said they expected enterprises to step up open-source database adoption now that MySQL had such a big backer. Sun also packages, distributes and supports a version of the PostgreSQL database.

Time will tell however, just how much ground open source will gain in the face of competition from Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, which remain the top three database vendors.

"I don't see major changes in the market concentration among commercial DBMS vendors, especially among Microsoft and Oracle-and especially on Windows and Unix/Linux, respectively," said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with the Burton Group. "IBM is still a major player as well, but less so on Lintel and Wintel than on IBM mainframes and midrange boxes, where DB2 essentially has a DBMS market monopoly at this point. MySQL will continue as part of the LAMP [Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Python/Perl] stack and will continue to do well for high-end, federated content, and both EnterpriseDB and Ingres will have some market penetration, but the mainstream commercial DBMS is dominated by Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future."