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October 14, 2016updated 25 Oct 2016 1:05pm

Database wars: How the market leaders are innovating

All of the DBMS vendors have their weaknesses.

By James Nunns

As one of the main core pieces of enterprise technology it should be unsurprising that the database continues to be a hotbed of innovation.

While Oracle maintains its lead at the top of the market a number of companies have been working diligently to chip away at its market share, and it’s a big market.

According to Gartner the overall DBMS (database management system) space grew at 8.7% to be worth $35.9 billion, over $33.1bn for the previous year.

However, over the past five years the mega-vendors have collectively lost share, although they still hold 89% of the market this has dropped from 91.4% in 2011.

Oracle has dropped 1.5% since 2011 to 41.6%, while Microsoft gained 0.8% to take second place with 19.4% of the market ahead of IBM with 16.5% which has dropped 5.6%.

Then there are the newcomers to the market, which Gartner says: “By revenue number standards, there’s still not much to write home about, though progress is being made. Adding the 5 NoSQL vendors with revenue above $25M in 2015 – Basho, Couchbase, Datastax, MarkLogic and MongoDB  – the collective total is $364M, which would be good for eighth on the list.”

Amazon Web Services is the most significant newcomer to the market with it already raking in $833.6m in revenue attributable to DBMS in 2015. A growth rate of 33% before the introduction of RDS Aurora.

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The analyst firm says that a change in the market is happening and predicts that it will look “quite different” in 2020.

This year it placed Microsoft in its leaders category ahead of Oracle, in its Magic Quadrant.

Clearly the market is changing so CBR highlights what the leaders in the market are doing.



Microsoft may have been positioned ahead of Oracle in its Magic Quadrant, but Big Red is still the dominant force in the market by a distance.

The company offers a broad range of database products such as Oracle Database,

Oracle maintains a 41.6% market share.

Oracle maintains a 41.6% market share.

TimeTen, Berkeley DB, NoSQL Database and MySQL, it also offers cloud versions of several of its DBMSs as appliances.

At the company’s OpenWorld conference in San Francisco it revealed updates for the Oracle Database 12 c Release 2. Improvements were said to be made to multi-tenancy, faster in-memory processing, and database sharding.

The improvements are aimed at pleasing a more cloud focused word where data management professions are increasingly looking to move workloads to the cloud, according to the company.

Gartner said that Big Red’s customers score it highly for its performance and reliability but also noted that its client inquiry service is increasingly being used by users exploring options to migrate away from Oracle to other relational database management systems, both on-premises and in the cloud.


The company can take heart from being positioned as a leader and its SQL Server DBMS in addition to the Microsoft Azure SQL Database, NoSQL DBMS’s Microsoft Azure DocumentDB and Azure Tables are proving popular.

Microsoft’s release of SQL Server 2016 gave the company the chance to announce support for Linux, which adds platform portability to its functionality.

Gartner said the company scored highly for ease of management, implementation and programmability, while 80% of reference customer responses said that upgrading to new releases was easier than expected.

Microsoft released SQL Server 2016 earlier this year.

Microsoft released SQL Server 2016 earlier this year.

One of its big problems is its image, both as a mega-vendor and with the market perception of it as a provider of DBMSs for small, departmental applications.

“Although Microsoft has begun increasing the size of the field force, it is not yet sufficient to compete well with the other megavendors – a problem that inhibits wider use of SQL Server as a primary, enterprise class DBMS,” Gartner said.

While it may have its problems, the company has revealed some strong innovations that have landed well with customers.

Its new found openness to Linux is one that has been generally welcomed by the open source community.


2015 was a good year for SAP thanks to the adoption of SAP HANA. The company said that HANA had been adopted by more than 10,000 customers at the end of the year. SAP also saw the strongest growth of the top five DBMS vendors.

SAP offers Adaptive Server Enterprise, SQL Anywhere and SAP HANA. According to Gartner more than 4,000 customers have purchased Suite on HANA and S/4 HANA.

SAP HANA proved a popular option in 2015.

SAP HANA proved a popular option in 2015.

Survey respondents highlighted the performance, speed, and ability to combine transactions and analytics in the same database as a strength of HANA.

Despite these positive it scored poorly for the percentage of its reference survey respondents reporting software issues and bugs was the highest of all the vendors in its Magic Quadrant.

The price of SAP HANA full-use edition, based on units of 64GB of memory used for data, is perceived as being expensive, although pricing for runtime is lower than some other DBMSs.


Offering IBM Compose, DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows, as well as IBM Graph, Information Management System, Informix, and open-source Cloudant and IBM Open Platform, the company has a broad portfolio.

The company’s strengths are with its rich features for document stores, graph stores, geospatial and time-series capabilities, plus Hadoop and Spark.

Although it has lost market share Big Blue hasn’t given up on the database market and has been pushing a lot of tech innovations.

IBM has aligned itself more closely to Apache Spark.

IBM has aligned itself more closely to Apache Spark.

The push into cloud has seen an increasingly cloud-driven DBMS, which has also seen the addition of Apache Spark as a service, and Compose for provisioning and scaling outside data.

Clearly though this has not resonated well with all of its customers. In 2015 DBMS revenue was down and it suffered its fourth consecutive decline. Gartner said that its shift to cloud-based revenue flows is a challenge to its traditional sales model.

The aggressive portfolio expansion has targeted many use cases but this has led to customers not knowing which to use, and efforts to shift that perception with Compose will take time to land.

Amazon Web Services

Already a clear cloud leader in services for both Infrastructure as a Service and platform offerings (according to Gartner), the company is now making a strong name for itself in the DBMS market.

The company offers Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS, for MariaDB, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle and PostgreSQL), Amazon Aurora and Amazon DynamoDB (a NoSQL document and key value DBMS), as well as other DBMS services.

The addition of a Hadoop framework with Elastic MapReduce, a massive parallel processing column-store with Redshift, and ElastiCache, an in-memory data store, have combined to give it a strong offering in the market that has seen it grow rapidly.

AWS may be a new entrant to the market but it has proved to be a popular choice.

AWS may be a new entrant to the market but it has proved to be a popular choice.

Where it differs from the traditional best-of-breed vendors is with offering multiple services to deliver best-fit capabilities in a unified cloud environment. This gives the company flexibility to address both current and future market needs.

The downsides are in that its offerings are only in the cloud, although some are based on on-premises products, Gartner identifies this as a limiting factor for some organisations.

The research firm also said that its customer reference survey found that AWS clients were calling out absent or weak functionality more frequently than any other vendor.

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