IBM, Oracle Race for Database Dominance

Updated: Hunger for analytics is fueling RDBMS market growth, while the Linux segment is red-hot.

The database market grew by 10.3 percent in 2004, fueled largely by hunger for business intelligence and analytics, according to numbers released by the Gartner Group on Monday.

With 34.1 percent of the overall market, IBM holds a slim margin over its closest competitor, Oracle Corp., which maintains 33.7 percent of the overall market. Microsoft Corp. follows up with 20 percent of the market. NCR Teradata Corp. controls 2.9 percent, Sybase Inc. claims 2.3 percent and others hold 6.6 percent.

The market growth figure doubles that of RDBMS (relational DBMS) market growth in 2003, which was 5 percent, according to Gartner Inc.s Colleen Graham, who authored the report.

"[The growth] came a lot from BI, data warehousing and data analysis," she said. "You can tell that if you look at [NCR]; they had really strong growth, and theyre a data-warehousing database. Thats where were seeing a lot of this come from."

The market grew from just under $7.1 billion in 2003 to nearly $7.8 billion in terms of new license sales. The continuing weakness of the U.S. dollar artificially inflated market growth to some degree, Graham said, accounting for some 3 to 4 percent of overall growth.

"[Overall market growth] was probably somewhere between 6 and 7 percent," she said, after considering that sales outside of the United States, when converted to U.S. dollars, contributed more to vendor revenue because of currency conversion, as opposed to increased demand.

Microsoft and Teradata led in terms of overall growth, with 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively. However, there was no clear winner in market share overall. Because the difference between RDBMS revenue for IBM and Oracle was less than $30 million, it is statistically too close to declare a winner, according to the report, titled "No Clear Winner in Overall RDBMS Market Share Race."

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead details here about Oracles PIM Data Hub.

Winner or no winner, vendors were quick to point out the rosy parts of the picture.

Willie Hardie, Oracles senior director of Database Product Marketing, found evidence that the market is buying into the database companys grid vision and its pushing of RAC (Real Application Clusters) clustering on commodity servers running on the Linux platform.

"Forget about databases specifically and look at server sales," said Hardie, in Redwood Shores, Calif. "The growth market in servers is in small servers, with clustering of small servers. That matches closely to Oracles grid model: dont buy big servers; cluster together boxes running Linux or Windows. No doubt theres a trend in the industry moving in that direction, somewhat reflected in Oracles growth in 2004."

The market for RDBMS on Linux, meanwhile, is red-hot. While still a relatively small part of the overall RDBMS market, the Linux segment grew 118 percent in 2004, more than doubling from $300 million in 2003 to more than $650 million in 2004.

Gartner found that Oracle has a growing lead over IBM in this subsection of the market, with growth of 155 percent. Oracle now controls 80.5 percent of the Linux RDBMS market, up from 69 percent a year ago. IBM, meanwhile, slipped in 2004, coming to rest at 16.5 percent of the market from year-ago figures of 28.4 percent of the market.

The Gartner report pointed out that Linux RDBMS revenue includes sales of Oracle 9i RAC, which adds about a 50 percent premium on top of regular RDBMS license fees for that company.

Bob Picciano, vice president of database servers for IBM, said Oracles growing Linux lead is artificially puffed up by those add-on RAC fees. "What Oracle is doing is, theyre migrating their own Unix base to the Linux platform," said Picciano, in Somers, N.Y. "In the process, theyre increasing the cost of software to those clients, by introducing the cost of RAC."

"Few users are acquiring Oracle for the Linux platform without the RAC option," the Gartner report states. "Almost 20 percent to 30 percent of Oracle RAC deployments are estimated to be on the Linux platform."

Hardie said the demand for Linux shows no signs of abating, coming from virtually all the vertical industries and including implementations of data warehousing on clustered RAC—that clearly not being a solution for the needs of a niche, he said.

IBM is set to fight back with DB2 features that compete with RAC. In particular, the companys release of "Stinger," the recently released version of DB2, is optimized for Version 2.6 of the Linux kernel, a move thats geared toward helping database clusters scale higher and perform faster.

It is also intended to better exploit the speed of 64-bit databases and servers that rely on multiple processors.

IBMs promise is that such multiprocessor servers can be joined in Linux clusters, as with DB2 ICE (Integrated Cluster Environment), an integrated package that combines DB2 and eServer Linux Cluster 1350 (xSeries, 325, BladeCenter) to provide a solution that, according to IBM, can cluster from two to 1,000 servers and pick up nodes at the rate of four per hour.

Picciano also pointed to Stingers HADR (High Availability and Disaster Recovery) as being the key to IBMs ability to deliver high availability at a fraction of the cost of Oracle RAC.

"With RAC, the client needs to license all the processors on both boxes, and they need to license the RAC feature," he said. "With HADR, you pay for processors on the primary [box] and for one processor on the standby box. So the cost savings is much greater."

Picciano said that HADR has helped IBM do battle in sales situations where IBM and Microsoft are in the room. "Were winning 89.4 percent of the time were engaging against Oracle and Microsoft" according to Q1 2005 numbers, he said, thanks not only to HADR but also to a retrained sales team and the decision to price servers at the chip level rather than the core level.

Microsoft, predictably, scoffed at the growth of the Linux database market. "Look at it: Its a small market," said Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server. "Youd expect some growth there, from such a small base."

Rizzo pointed to the healthy growth in the Windows database market as evidence that Windows is "eating away at the Linux camp" rather than the other way around. The RDBMS market on the Windows server platform grew 10 percent in 2004. Microsofts market share grew 18 percent in this segment.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about the increasing market share of open-source database PostgreSQL.

That gave Microsoft 50.9 percent of the Windows RDBMS market, up from 47.4 percent in 2003. IBM posted a 4 percent decline in this market segment, which followed a nearly 12 percent decline in 2003—a slippage Gartner attributed to weak adoption of DB2 8.

Graham said she was surprised to see Microsoft do so well, given that the release of SQL Server 2005, code-named Yukon, has been delayed so often and so long.

"We do our forecast and say OK, each of these vendors, which is coming out with a new product? Wheres each one been in the product lifecycle?" she said. "To see Microsoft have growth this strong, even before they release Yukon, that struck me as interesting. People arent waiting."

Much of Microsofts success likely goes back to the overall interest in BI, Graham said—a premise that Rizzo seconded. "BI is a tremendous growth driver for us, especially Reporting Services, which weve seen a ton of customers buying and deploying," he said.

"Thats why we invested so heavily in BI technologies across SQL Server. We put a down payment many years ago, and now its paying off in terms of revenue growth," Rizzo added, pointing to the companys release of OLAP (online analytical processing) services in 1998, which was the first of a string of BI technologies integrated into the database itself.

"People looked at us like we were kind of crazy," Rizzo said. "[They asked,] Why is Microsoft integrating BI into the database? Most people buy it separately. Were saying … integrate it seamlessly into the database. All the people who thought we had four heads and eight eyes, you look at the strategies of our competitors, theyre starting to go down the same path we started down years ago."

Editors Note: This story was updated to include input from IBM and to clarify a statement regarding Stinger having already shipped.

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