Enterprises Warming Up to Firebird Open-Source Database

A new survey shows that enterprise database managers are taking to Firebird, an open-source relational database known for sizzling transaction performance.

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.

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