Volume 17, Number 26 -- July 7, 2008

The Relational Database Market Grows Decently in 2007

Published: July 7, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Here we are halfway through 2008, and only now is IDC coming out with its sales statistics for the relational database management system (RDBMS) market in 2007. But estimating database sales takes a whole lot more effort than counting up servers and calculating revenues by vendor, and it takes both IDC and Gartner to gin up statistics that they think accurately reflect what actually happened in the market. Hence, the lag.

According to the figures released last week from IDC, the relational database market grew by 12.6 percent in 2007, hitting $18.8 billion in sales--a pretty hefty bump up from the $16.7 billion in sales in 2006. The database vendors of the world were sure, you can bet, to get their hands on that extra $2.1 billion in sales. As the name suggests, these figures do not include sales of flat file database management systems, such as IMS or IDMS (proper databases from IBM and CA for mainframes) or the CICS/VSAM combo (also on mainframes and also used, in effect, as a database for online transaction and batch processing).

In the relational database market, it takes a lot of ingenuity and marketing to change relative positions--or at least a lot more than any of the current top five players can bring to bear, since the rankings have not changed appreciably in the past couple of years. This is remarkable considering the number of acquisitions that the big RDBMS players have done in recent years, either for tooling surrounding their databases or for products themselves. The top RDBMS players ranked by revenues are, of course and in order, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Teradata (now spun out of NCR as a separate entity), and Sybase.

Oracle really sweeps up in the RDBMS category, as it has for as long as I can remember, with 44.3 percent of the pie, or $8.3 billion in sales in 2007. IBM is a distant second, even with its DB2 variants for mainframe and System i platforms thrown into the DB2 for Unix, Linux, and Windows mix, with 21 percent of the global market, or just under $4 billion. Both Oracle and IBM grew their respective sales by 13.3 percent in 2007, so all that competitive heat didn't make any market share gain light. But, both vendors grew faster than the overall market, so that is something. But Microsoft grew slightly faster at 14 percent growth between 2006 and 2007, garnering nearly $3.5 billion in sales and giving the company an 18.5 percent share of the RDBMS pie. Sybase and Teradata have 3.5 percent and 3.3 percent of the market, respectively, leaving only 9.4 percent for all other players in the market to chase. Including the license count reining champion of the world, Sun Microsystems' recently acquired MySQL database. For all the installs that MySQL gets, its revenue figures barely register in the commercial database market. That doesn't mean it is a bad product or that Sun made a bad business decision. It just means that there are two kinds of database users: those who pay and those who barely do.

"Although the top five RDBMS vendors represent over 90 percent of the worldwide market, there is plenty of dynamism and growth potential in the remaining 10 percent, where differentiators that include low-cost, extraordinarily high throughput, embedability, and unusual architectures are aimed at niche data management requirements," explained Carl Olofson, the research vice president of Information Management and Data Integration Software research at IDC. "These vendors certainly bear watching as time goes by."

It would be interesting to see IDC's installed base data by licenses and by the number of databases under management by the RDBMS programs that customers can choose in IT today. You can sure bet the pie charts would look wildly different than they do for annual revenues. You need to look at both measures, of course, to try to assess databases against each other. It would also be instructive to see what kind of workloads they are supporting. A massive ERP system is probably backed by Oracle or DB2 or SQL Server, maybe Informix or Sybase in specific industries, for instance. Web infrastructure is probably MySQL or PostgreSQL. Most companies use a mix of commercial and open source databases today. That's just a fact of life.


Database Sales Grew By 14.2 Percent in 2006, Says Gartner

Database Sales Grew in 2005, Say IDC and Gartner

Gartner Says Database Market Continued Its Recovery in 2004

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Brian Kelly, Shannon O'Donnell,
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