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Open source making its mark

Open source databases are beginning to put pressure on Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, according to a Forrester Research report.

Oracle, Microsoft and IBM will respond to a flood of interest in open source databases by slashing prices and ramping up automation features, according to "DBMS: Foundation of application Infrastructure," a market report issued by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

Proprietary database management system (DBMS) vendors are beginning to feel the pinch from MySQL, Computer Associates International Inc.'s Ingres and other open source DBMS vendors that are attracting new customers with a low cost, no-frills systems.

Open source is clearly making a dent in database low-end deployments today ... I expect larger scale deployments in the near future.
Noel Yuhanna,
senior industry analystForrester Research Inc.

"Right now we're seeing the impact of open source databases in the entry-level database arena," said Noel Yuhanna, a senior analyst at Forrester. "As open source vendors add new features and functionality, the adoption rate [of open source databases] will increase."

While more than 80% of enterprises continue to focus on the top-tier DBMS products -- such as Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 and Oracle -- for mission-critical database applications, open source products are accounting for more low-end, small scale deployments, according to the Forrester report.

Most of the open source DBMS deployments are for non-mission-critical applications, but Forrester predicts that more than 20% of overall deployments will be mission-critical by 2006.

Forrester surveyed DBAs, chief information officers and other IT personnel at 85 North American firms that use or plan to use open source software. Of those, 52% said that they use or plan to use MySQL DBMS. Those surveyed said they were lured by low cost of support and maintenance, low acquisition costs and easier integration with customized software.

"Open source is clearly making a dent in database low-end deployments today," Yuhanna said. "I expect larger scale deployments in the near future."

For now companies are downloading the free open source versions, initially to test out the functionality in their specific environment, Yuhanna said. Once enterprises get through the initial stages of their testing models, most will make the switch to the fully supported version.

"Enterprises that are serious about open source will purchase the supported version," Yuhanna said.

MySQL is the leader in open source systems, but CA announced plans in May to open up the source code to its Ingres DBMS. In addition, CA said last week it would offer $1 million to encourage development of an open source database migration toolkit.

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Weighing the costs of open source

"We're seeing very good comments about Ingres in terms of performance, scalability and feature sets," Yuhanna said. "It's definitely going to be an important open source database and will compete on the deployment adoption rate with MySQL."

Meanwhile, IBM is also jumping on board, announcing recently that it would contribute its Cloudscape Java database, which it acquired from Informix, to the Apache Software Foundation. The project is called "Derby," and amounts to more than 500,000 lines of Java code.

While open source databases begin to take more market share, Forrester said it is seeing increased interest in mobile and XML databases. A Sybase subsidiary, iAnywhere Solutions Inc. dominates the mobile space with more than 65% of the market.

XML-enabled databases supported by Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft also continue to grow, according to Forrester. The current market size is about $250 million and is likely to grow to $400 million by 2007, Forrester said.

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