Which database is best for multiple platforms: Windows, Linux and Unix

Linux expert Ken Milberg offers advice on database selection for the heterogeneous data center, and recommends Oracle based on market share, support and technical abilities.

Even with the push of virtually every organization towards server consolidation, most IT organizations have many...

types of systems they need to support, which includes a myriad of databases. In a heterogeneous environment consisting of Windows, Linux, Unix and sometimes mainframes is there is such a thing as a "best" database which allows for optimum transparency and support? This is what we'll discuss in this article.

Overall growth and revenue is an important barometer. According to the Gartner group, worldwide revenue of database management systems total revenue exceeded over $15 billion. Usually when one considers Windows, Linux and Unix environments, certain databases come to mind:

  • Windows -- SQL Server
  • Linux – Mysql
  • Unix –Oracle.

    With Unix, this can vary to a degree – sometimes dependent on the hardware vendors' particular Unix distribution. For example, if you were running IBM's Unix, AIX, you would have a much better chance of running IBM's databases, DB2 or Informix, than if you were running Sun's Solaris or HP's HP-UX.

    Overall, Oracle continues to dominate the market share with over 48% of the overall market. IBM holds the number two position, thanks mostly to DB2. Microsoft has the number three slot with SQL Server.

    As far as operating systems are concerned, Oracle, which actually holds more market share than its closest two competitors, rules the Unix and Linux world, while Microsoft rules the Windows and IBM rules the mainframe.

    All other vendors including Sybase come up to about 8% of the collective pie. What's interesting is that while Linux has dominated in recent years in overall operating systems growth – it still is only the third largest RDBMB OS with a market share of 15.5%.

    Certainly Linux has made major strides in recent years with scalability, particularly since the release of the 2.6 kernel, but when speaking to CIOs, Linux is still not perceived in the same way as Unix is when it comes to scalability and reliability.

    Is market share really that important or are there other factors that are more important?

    Though some techno-geeks may not like the answer - unquestionably, market share is very relevant. The database that has the market share usually is the one that has more resources to offer from a service and support standpoint.

    Consider the challenge that companies have in maintaining adequate support. The bottom line is that there are more Oracle DBA's than there are Sybase DBAs. Let's look at Oracle. The company has 7000+ support professionals in 145 different countries. For a global company that has to support Windows, Linux and Unix systems, this type of universal acceptance is key.

    While we are on the subject of Oracle, lets examine their Linux support -- perhaps the one area that really sets Oracle apart from any of the other contenders. Oracle has its own Linux distribution today -- Oracle Enterprise Linux. Based on Red Hat Linux, and similar to CentOS -- it is essentially Red Hat without the trademark. Oracle uses the RHEL source code available under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

    Oracle also supports Linux through its Oracle Unbreakable Linux Program. This initiative involves support, systems management, cluster software and testing at a lower cost than what is available through Red Hat and is meant to compete with Red Hat directly. Through this program – Oracle customers can get access at no-charge to Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g, which is comprised of Oracle Management Server (OMS) and other management agents.

    Oracle has also been an important contributor to Linux through the years, perhaps most notably contributing Oracle Cluster File System, which is now part of the Linux Kernel 2.6.16.

    What about the company itself? Oracle runs its entire outsourced business, Oracle on Demand, on Linux, as well as its demo systems which prospective customers look at. Furthermore, they run their entire world-wide email system on Linux and has over ten thousand Linux servers in its own data centers.

    In fact, development of all its major applications, including their Database and the Oracle e-business suite is done in Linux. Finally, all their internal Linux systems are supported by their Linux support team as part of the unbreakable Linux support program. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is! IBM database options

    DB2 was originally available exclusively on IBM mainframes, and during the 90's it was introduced on other platforms including OS/2, Unix, Windows and ultimately Linux. Informix -- which IBM acquired in 2001, also runs on all these platforms. IBM's support of Linux is second to none. They have poured over 1 billion dollars into the development of Linux through the years and they currently support over 500 distinct software products on Linux.

    IBM also recently announced its Open Collaboral Client Solution (OCCS), a partnership with Novell, Red Hat and Canonical (Ubuntu), which will allow customers to get Lotus Notes with Linux distributions. While DB2 and Informix are solid databases – they don't have the widespread acceptance of Oracle, and for heterogeneous environments that acceptance is key.

    Worth a mention in this article is Teradata, formerly a division of NCR -- spun off in 2007, which is a parallel processing system meant for Data Warehousing applications. Teradata runs on Unix, Windows or Linux (SUSE). Its biggest competitors are Oracle, IBM and Sybase. Teradata introduced support for Linux in 2005 through a partnership with Novell. Terada's boasts a very high-end niche product, and while a player in the field, it lacks the universal acceptance of an Oracle or a DB2.

    Of course, we'll have to mention SQL Server. If you're running Windows, obviously this is an option. If you're running Linux or Unix, SQL Server is not your answer. This takes it out of the mix for us.

    In conclusion, Oracle gets our vote for the database that is best for a heterogeneous environment. It has the market share, technical ability, world-class support and maturity for virtually every architecture.

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