Enterprises Warming Up to Firebird Open-Source Database

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-01-28

Enterprises Warming Up to Firebird Open-Source Database

Firebird—an open-source relational database known for sizzling transaction performance—is surging in popularity in the enterprise and heralds growing acceptance overall of open-source databases, according to a recent study.

Evans Data Corp.s Winter 2005 Database Development Survey looked at the database preferences of some 406 developers in mostly medium to large enterprises. Of those surveyed, 23 percent of developers picked Firebird for use in "edge" databases—in other words, those that are embedded in systems or in devices, such as a point-of-sale system in a retail outlet or a network device. Runners-up included Microsoft Corp.s Access, at 21 percent, and Microsofts SQL Server, at 13 percent.

RFID tagging will likely fuel interest in Firebird, said Joe McKendrick. McKendrick is an analyst for Evans, which is based in Santa Cruz, Calif.

"Companies need to be able to put databases out there that are close to sources of this data, such as in distribution or retail environments," he said. "When you have a fairly robust database that has liberal licensing terms [such as Firebird], you dont have to pay to replicate and install it on servers where you need it, and its a very appealing proposition."

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McKendrick said that the survey overall showed open-source databases as having made deep inroads into the enterprise since Evans first started surveying their use, about three years ago. At that time, about 12 percent of respondents were tinkering with open-source databases—a percentage thats up to 60 percent now.

A large segment of Evans survey respondents come from the high-tech sector, with the largest group—26 percent—representing those who work in software companies. McKendrick says that such a population is on the "bleeding edge of technology adoption," and where they go, so too will others follow. "These are the forward guard, at the forefront of the implementation trends," he said.

Overall, MySQL ABs MySQL and Firebird are tied in popularity, with 34 percent of respondents who are using open-source databases opting for each database.

When it comes to use in workgroups, however, SQL Server rules the roost—but only by a sliver. Of those surveyed, 23.1 percent said that SQL Server was their leading database for workgroup usage, compared with 22.8 percent who opted for Firebird.

The population surveyed was heavily slanted toward Windows as an operating system platform on which to develop and deploy applications, with 9 out of 10 relying on Windows. That likely explains the preference for SQL Server in the workgroup, McKendrick said.

For enterprise applications, SQL Server also leads, with 25.25 percent choosing it as the leading database. Firebird came in second, with 19.8 percent, and was just about tied with Oracle, at 19.6 percent.

Thats a surprisingly low showing for Oracle in the enterprise, he observed. While Evans doesnt provide company-size breakouts in the report, McKendrick assumed that more Oracle use would show up in larger enterprises and more-complex implementations.

Next Page: Databases are safer, recovery times are static, and interest in XML is sharp.

Databases are safer, recovery

times are static, and interest in XML is sharp">

Meanwhile, in other report findings, 30 percent of database developers said that they can recover critical data within 6 to 30 minutes of a system outage. Three percent said it takes longer than 24 hours to restore mission-critical data. On the other end of the spectrum, 4 percent said it takes less than a minute to recover mission-critical data.

Those figures havent changed much over the years that Evans has been tracking system recovery, McKendrick said—likely because the industry is just on the cutting edge of autonomic computing and self-management.

"I think well see some great strides," he said. "IBM has its initiative, Autonomic Computing, and the Stinger database. Oracle has been focusing in this area as well."

The report also found that 60 percent of database developers plan to expose or invoke database operations through Web services. The most likely database operations to be invoked are stored procedures, at 22 percent, SQL Query Web services, at 18 percent, and XML Query Web services, at 15 percent.

The XML Query figure shows that developers are "champing at the bit" to get going on wrangling XML data, McKendrick said. "Between four out of 10 to half of our survey group is looking at XQuery and figuring out what to do with it, before the final spec is released or included in vendors products," he said.

"The majority of our companies have XML-formatted data within their enterprises. The traditional relational database vendors have that capability to store XML data. [Microsoft] SQL Server 2005 or Yukon, when that arrives, will have a very advanced capability in terms of storing XML-enabled data. The conclusion is that XML is a very key part of everyones strategy, and we need to store it in the most effective way possible, and to build applications that can readily access that data."

Finally, Evans survey found that either database security is improving or database plagues are in a lull. A vast majority—89 percent—of respondents reported no security breaches against their databases. Thats an improvement over past years, when 20 to 25 percent have typically reported breaches against the database. For those that did suffer security breaches during the period covered by this survey, most blamed physical access.

"Lets hope that continues," McKendrick said. "At least for the past six months, its been quiet on the database front."

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