In the final installment of our 2017 Database Trends analysis series, we evaluate the database community’s rising interest in open source database offerings. We discuss the impact these upstart competitors will have on the industry heavyweights that include Oracle, Microsoft and IBM. Each analysis begins with a detailed examination of the trend and concludes with a RDX “takeaway” that includes specific recommendations. The series also analyzes the following 2017 trends:
- Hybrid Clouds - Microsoft and Oracle Lead the Way
- Market Impact - SQL Server on Linux
- The Evolution of Multi-Model Databases and NoSQL Vendor Consolidation
The Rising Interest in Open Source Database Offerings
According to a 2016, report from DB-Engines, a site that provides adoption rankings of various database products, the three fastest growing databases were open source offerings. Open source database management systems provide IT consumers with the benefit of lower up-front licensing and ongoing maintenance costs. The database software is distributed under an open source licensing model that often varies in restrictions according to product and vendor. It is important to note that open source does not always mean the product is totally free. Many open source DBMS vendors provide base functionality in their free, open source offerings and a higher level of features in versions that have up-front purchase costs or require subscription-based support contracts. The key differentiator is that the up-front licensing and ongoing maintenance costs are significantly lower than their commercial competitors. When compared to their commercial product competitors, open source offerings were historically characterized as niche offerings with limited features, functionality and vendor support. As a result, organizations often shied away from open source offerings that were not commercially supported. There was no stable, mature organization that they could rely upon for product support, patches and upgrades. They felt uncomfortable implementing critical or mission-critical applications that were “crowd supported.”
A new class of service providers has stepped in over the last few years to provide 24x7 support for a growing number of open source database products that include, but are not limited to, PostgreSQL, MySQL (and its derivatives MariaDB and Percona), MongoDB and Cassandra. EnterpriseDB, as an example, markets its Postgres Plus Advanced Server product as a cost-effective alternative to Oracle. The vendor states that its product provides a deep level of compatibility with Oracle’s features that includes the PL/SQL procedural language, Oracle SQL extensions, functions, packages and replication. The product also provides Oracle-like tools which include EDB*Plus, EDB*Loader and EDB*Wrap. The growth in open source features, administrative tools and available DBA skill sets combined with the traditionally high cost of commercial database product source code, complex and restrictive licensing agreements and commercial vendors' overly aggressive (sometimes described as “predatory”) auditing practices are all combining to make open source products increasingly attractive alternatives to their commercial counterparts.
The DB-engines website ranks the popularity of open source and commercial database management systems. The criteria used to rank the databases includes measuring the number of references for the product on industry websites, Google searches and job postings as well as the number of mentions on professional and social networks.
As the the converging trend lines above show, open source product offerings are capturing an increasing amount of the database community’s interest. They are beginning to close the gap with their commercial counterparts and should eclipse their rivals sometime in 2017. As of December 2016, the top commercial databases in web popularity were: Oracle (1), Microsoft SQL Server (3), DB2 (6) and Microsoft Access (7). The top open source products included MySQL (2), PostgreSQL (4), MongoDB (5), Cassandra (7), Redis (9) and SQL Lite (10). In a 2016 Survey of 1,300 IT professionals performed by North Bridge and Black Duck, respondents stated that their use of open source software increased 65% since 2015. The survey group, comprising of 78% technical and 22% C-Suite professionals, also stated that operating systems were the most commonly implemented open source software products followed closely by database management systems. The respondents then predicted that in the next 2 to 3 years the cloud would be the top growth area for open source offerings. Databases would continue in the number 2 spot. In the 2015 survey, respondents felt that access to the source code was the most attractive benefit of open source products. This changed in the 2016 survey to features and functionality.
Takeaway – The Rising Interest in Open Source Database Offerings
RDX is recommending to its customers to add an open source DBMS to their supported products. IT shops should begin to consider OSDBMS offerings as potential replacements for commercial products in specific use-cases. The open source database offerings, as a class of database products, are rapidly increasing their feature set and scope of application. They may not be able to compete with the industry heavyweights in a feature-by-feature comparison, but they offer a cost-attractive alternative to commercial offerings. Not all of the database-driven applications we are required to support require the extensive feature sets provided by the commercial vendors. In those cases, open source products are viable alternatives.