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Database Trends: Q&A with Gartner's Donald Feinberg

IBM has been making database news of late, introducing an upgrade of the Informix Database Server and announcing a major deal with the City of Los Angeles. IBM says the city is moving from Oracle to IBM's DB2 9 in order to "lower the costs of running the city’s geographic information system (GIS)." Oracle declined to comment on the deal or IBM's claim that its DB business is "soaring." To get an independent assessment of the DB market, we called on analyst Donald Feinberg of Gartner for hi

Doug Henschen

June 12, 2007

4 Min Read

You don't hear much about Informix. What's significant about the upgrade IBM announced today?

IBM’s critics have been saying that the company has been ignoring Informix. That's simply not true. The new release has many enhancements, many coming directly from user-group requests. With IDS 11, they have sent a message to IDS users that they are serious about the DBMS and that it's part of IBM’s overall DBMS strategy.

IBM says it's gaining DB marketshare. What's your take?

Oracle is still the market leader, there's no question about that. We estimate that they have some 250,000 customers and that it has close to half the market in terms of total revenue. To say Oracle's share is slipping is a bit of an overstatement, but IBM and Microsoft are winning a lot of new accounts and Oracle is probably not winning as many. That has a lot to do with things like SAP. As you would expect, SAP is not exactly going to push new clients toward an Oracle implementation.

IBM also pointed out a survey airing customer unhappiness with Oracle contracts, upgrades and pricing. Are those issues contributing to market movement?

There are Oracle users who are unhappy with contracts and pricing, but it's almost never related to technical issues. If they're unhappy, it's because of their experience with account management.

So what are some of the technical issues figuring in new DB wins?

IBM does have some technology in DB2 that is patented and different from any of the other DBMSs. A lot of that came from the Informix acquisition through a company it had acquired called Illustra. Illustra came up with the concept of the data blade, which let you create a new object type, and that's where IBM got its support for geographic information system (GIS) data.

One of the biggest difference with DB2 version 9 from the previous version is that it has an XML engine that lets it physically store native XML data separately from the relational data. IBM makes a big deal about that, but Sybase does it and Microsoft does it as well. Oracle sort of does it now and 11g will have full native XML support.

How does XML support figure in customer implementations?

It's about document storage. In the past, content management vendors such as Documentum and others had to store their documents somewhere other than the database. They either built their own repositories or they used the Software AG Tamino native XML database. Now the four major database vendors – Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and Sybase – can all store documents in some type of native XML fashion, so many of the third-party ISVs that write content management software are starting to support databases that can store XML natively.

What should we expect to see in the Oracle 11g announcements next month?

Aside from the native XML capabilities, the big push will be on better DB manageability, along with enhancements for data warehousing, RAC [Real Application Cluster], partitioning, storage management and what they call grid management. There's a substantial list of enhancements.

Will Oracle also answer critics on the contract/license/price front?

They're addressing those issues, but it's not easy to change the perception of a sales force. That's not something that's going to change overnight.

What else is do you see really changing the database market?

We could talk for two hours about data warehouse appliances. Thanks to Netezza, the whole concept of the appliance has emerged. Appliances can be less expensive and answer a specific need in the market, so you have a whole bunch of appliances coming out now like IBM with its balanced data warehouse, HP with Neoview, Netezza itself is going public, DatAllergro is out there and Sun also has an appliance with Greenplum. So all of a sudden there are a bunch of new options.

I take it the "specific need" for appliances is data marts that aren't dealing with diverse query types?

Usually we find that appliances are used to create data marts to enhance the performance of the enterprise data warehouse. By adding an appliance, a company might be able to avoid upgrading its Teradata box for a couple of years. You may save a lot of money and get better performance on your EDW while giving the people using the marts better performance as well.

About the Author(s)

Doug Henschen

Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of Transform Magazine, and Executive Editor at DM News. He has covered IT and data-driven marketing for more than 15 years.

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