This is the second installment in the Who Will Win the Database Wars series which analyzes the most significant areas of database vendor competition. In addition to this comparison, the series also includes the following competitive assessments:

We are all aware that privately controlled, on-premises systems and public environments will coexist for some time. For those organizations that are contemplating public cloud DBMS implementations, there are dozens of architectures and vendor offerings available.

The alternatives range the spectrum in pricing, features and administrative control. Customers can choose from IaaS environments which provide them with total ownership of their software stack’s administration to dbPaaS systems which significantly raises provider control over the customer’s environment.

dbPaaS environments, depending on the provider and database product, offer varying degrees of self-service capabilities. dbPaaS vendors also offer varying levels of administrative support activities that may include monitoring, patching, event notifications, geo-replication for availability and backups. When evaluating cloud DBMS offerings, determining the level of administrative control you wish to retain is a critical evaluation factor.

Performing a feature-by-feature comparison of the vendors is far beyond the scope of this article. There are dozens (and dozens) of individual evaluation criteria that need to be identified, weighted, ranked, compared and evaluated. I’ve written a whitepaper that provides a high-level overview of cloud DBMS evaluation best practices. Because of the importance of choosing the most appropriate architecture and cloud DBMS provider, RDX provides a full suite of cloud DBMS services which includes cloud vendor analysis and selection.

Cloud DBMS systems differ greatly from their on-premises counterparts. Many customers are surprised to find that the level of impact cloud systems have on their staffing models, in-house toolsets, change management and administrative support procedures is far greater than they originally estimated. RDX created a SlideShare presentation on cloud DBMS offerings that provides information on vendor selection and the impact the new architecture has in store for them. The changes are much more significant than most realize.

What Vendor Will Win the Public Cloud DBMS Wars - Amazon, Oracle or Microsoft? 

WINNER - Amazon (For Now), Microsoft (Close #2) Followed by Oracle

Amazon currently offers a broad and deep suite of cloud DBMS services. Customers can choose from fully managed products that include relational (Aurora), NoSQL (DynamoDB), data warehouse (Redshift) and in-memory (Elasticache). Amazon’s RDS product suite provides consumers with six managed database engines that include Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MariaDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL and Aurora.

On the other end of the management ownership spectrum, Amazon’s EC2 provides customers with total administrative control over their entire software stack which includes their database instances.

This wide array of offerings allows organizations to choose their cloud DBMS architecture of choice, from single tenant traditional IaaS models that provide them with a high level of administrative control to multi-tenant, dbPaaS environments that turn over ownership of many of the day-to-day administrative processes to Amazon.

When compared to Oracle and Microsoft, Amazon’s fully managed product offerings are traditionally viewed to be less competitive in a head-to-head comparison of database features and functionality. However, in order to perform a thorough comparison of the vendors, we cannot constrain ourselves to analyzing database features alone. We must also examine the vendor’s entire suite of offerings as well as their cloud DBMS “ecosystem,” an ecosystem that includes the range of architectures available, pricing models, provisioning, geographic data redundancy, compute and storage architectures, security controls, administrative tools and edge technologies and products. Amazon, by the very nature of its business offerings, is the most mature provider of cloud architectures. As a result, it has a significant head start on its two main rivals.

Microsoft Azure comes in as a close second. Remember that we are comparing the suite of cloud offerings, not individual database products. Amazon provides the greatest number of cloud DBMS alternatives. But, when you compare their cloud provisioning, security, administrative and compute and storage architectures, Microsoft’s Azure is rapidly closing the functionality gap with Amazon. Some may argue that the functionality gap is already closed between the two vendors. Azure is, and will continue to be, the platform of choice for customers who are strongly committed to SQL Server and the Microsoft technology stack

Oracle, which entered into the cloud war later than both Amazon and Microsoft, has some catching up to do. Although a little late entering the playing field, Oracle has launched an all-out offensive to challenge both Amazon and Microsoft. Oracle hired Peter Magnusson from Google as its Senior VP of Cloud Development and Don Johnson from Amazon as its VP of Engineering. Larry Ellison pretty much declared an all-out war against Amazon in his 2016 Oracle OpenWorld keynote presentation.

It will take Oracle some time to catch its competitors, but it didn’t become, and continue to remain, the DBMS market share leader by resting on its laurels. During its early years, Oracle eclipsed IBM, the market’s most formidable relational database competitor, in product sales. We can all assume that it has the ability to become the market leader in all database systems, whether that system be on-premises, hybrid or pure cloud only.

The challenge for Amazon is that it has a limited ability to provide on-premises or hybrid DBMS cloud services to customers. It will be relegated to a cloud only DBMS services provider. Until consumers begin to more widely adopt cloud DBMS systems as their architecture of choice, it will not be able to challenge Oracle’s or Microsoft’s leadership positions in overall DBMS market share. By the time pure cloud-only systems achieve widespread market acceptance, both Oracle and Microsoft will have offerings that rival Amazon’s.

Microsoft's and Oracle's Hybrid Architectures vs Amazon's Breadth of Product Offerings

In addition, Oracle's and Microsoft's Hybrid Cloud Offerings will provide consumers with the flexibility to easily deploy database systems to the cloud or on-premises architectures.   These hybrid environments will become the architecture of choice for customers who are committed to Oracle's and Microsoft's  product offerings.   They will also become attractive alternatives for those shops that prefer the freedom to choose between cloud and on-premesis database implementations.

Amazon's competitive strengths will be the breadth of database products it offers, price points and the quality,  increasing robustness and ease-of-use of its cloud architectures.    Amazon  customers will have the continued ability to choose from a wide array of database products and custom tailor a cloud architecture that meets their shop's needs.

If you are interested in a more detailed comparison of the competing vendors, please refer to these excellent articles:

Microsoft Azure vs. Amazon Web Services: Cloud Comparison

Does Oracle have a shot in the public cloud vs. Amazon and Microsoft?