Commercial database vendors embrace open source

IBM, Oracle, Sybase and other proprietary database vendors have responded to the interest in Linux by ramping up support for the platform.

Proprietary database management system (DBMS) vendors IBM, Oracle, Sybase and others are embracing open source in an effort to take a bite out of market share held by Microsoft, and sell their products to the growing list of Linux users.

Nearly all proprietary database vendors are aligning themselves with Linux,
Mike Schiff
vice president of data warehousing and business intelligenceCurrent Analysis

They are responding to MySQL, Computer Associates International Inc.'s Ingres and other open source DBMS vendors that are attracting new customers with low cost, no-frills systems, according to analysts.

While more than 80% of enterprises continue to focus on the top-tier DBMS products for mission-critical database applications, open source products are accounting for more low-end, small-scale deployments, according to Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. Forrester predicts that more than 20% of overall deployments will be mission-critical by 2006.

Larger scale, mission-critical deployments will follow, according to analysts.

"Proprietary vendors are taking Linux very seriously and aggressively moving to be the database of choice on that platform," said Mike Schiff, vice president of data warehousing and business intelligence at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis.

Oracle Corp. is making every effort to align itself with Linux, even releasing a version of its proprietary Oracle 9i DBMS at a Linux event in 2002, Schiff said.

"By throwing its weight behind Linux, a battlefield on which Microsoft has chosen not to wage war, Oracle can only increase its overall non-mainframe market share," Schiff said.

Oracle's muscle has been felt in the Linux market. It holds nearly 70% of the overall Linux database market, according to the latest figures from Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. Gartner attributes Oracle's increase in Linux sales to sales of its DBMS software in data warehouse environments where critical data is stored.

"Linux is turning databases into commodities," Schiff said. "All the proprietary vendors are trying to go head-to-head with Microsoft and say 'we run on Linux and they don't.'"

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IBM has also responded to the surge in Linux interest. In 2001, it acquired the assets of Informix Software for about $1 billion, resulting in the ownership of several DBMS products, including Cloudscape, an embedded Java DBMS. IBM has also heavily marketed its DB2 DBMS on Linux.

Last year, Big Blue contributed Cloudscape to the Apache Software Foundation, which is branding it as Apache Derby. Big Blue uses Cloudscape as an embedded Java database in about 70 IBM products, including IBM WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Portal Server and Lotus Workplace, Schiff said.

It will continue to market the Cloudscape-Derby product based on snapshots of the latest stable release from the foundation, Schiff said.

Even former database stalwart, Sybase Inc. has jumped on the Linux bandwagon. Sybase announced in November that it is integrating its Adaptive Server Enterprise with IBM's eServer OpenPower platform. IBM's eServer OpenPower servers are designed and tuned specifically for Linux environments.

The two vendors will first focus on the financial services market, where Sybase still has a large number of customers.

Schiff said the partnership is likely an attempt by IBM to scope out new financial services customers on the Linux platform.

Sybase also rolled out a free production license for its Adaptive Server Enterprise Express Edition on Linux. Although the free license limits customers to one processor and 5 GB of data storage, it allows users to build, test and deploy new applications with no license fee.

"Nearly all proprietary database vendors are aligning themselves with Linux," Schiff said. "Clearly, we're witnessing Linux transforming the database market."

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