Commodity with Limitless Market Potential

Open source database market
Open source database market

The general issue of the open source database market is that the closed-source vendors are not that interested in extending the capabilities of their products. With the closed source vendors locking down their databases, a customer who needs new capabilities is at the whim and control of the closed source vendor. With open source, the customer has choices on how to extend the product, supplier, do it themselves, form a consortium or hire someone to do the work for them. Choices help provide efficiencies for open source that are non-existent for closed source. What´s more users under the GPL license are also free from being locked into any vendor’s hidden platform agenda.

Catching up a 30-year maturation process

Portrait Ingres
Portrait Ingres

Ingres, which grew up in the same database wars as Microsoft and Oracle, believes customers started experimenting with open source databases because they were successful with Linux and Apache Web server. But the open source databases have not gone through a 30-year maturation process like Oracle, IBM and Microsoft.
Ingres has an opportunity with companies embedding its technology. For example, DATAllegro embeds Ingres in its data warehouse appliances. Ingres will focus on building and deploying the business open source database and delivering software that changes the way that companies deploy and manage their software. “I think a great example is the forthcoming Ingres appliance,” said Dave Dargo, Ingres CTO and senior vice president, strategy.
Ingres supports multi-threaded processing and supports more types of joins for data warehouse type queries, for example, hash joins. The Ingres r3 query optimizer has well developed capabilities in choosing the most efficient join process, according to DATAllegro. In addition, the company said Ingres r3 supports table portioning and multi-level sub portioning of a table and supports access of data via direct I/O (bypassing the OS and going directly to the drivers) enabling very quick read speeds. “By creating a virtualizable appliance, we create a more efficient method of delivering software updates and services while creating a more reliable infrastructure.”
Dargo explained Ingres will release a software appliance this year combining its database software with Linux. The combined software will function as an integrated maintenance unit. “There is a prototype in the lab now and we expect to have prototypes to customers in the summer,” he said. “By year-end, we hope to have third parties building on top of our technology framework to provide their own appliances supporting applications such as e-mail.” Companies that “own” software stacks such as Oracle and Microsoft don’t treat them as stacks when it comes to maintenance of the different software pieces, he said.
“For instance, Microsoft provides support separately for its Windows operating system and its SQL Server database,” Dargo said. “We’re taking the Linux distribution and stripping it down to the key components our database needs. There’s no integration required, the database comes with a self-contained operating system so there’s less code to worry about. The software appliance will make it easier for users to virtualize database instances on Linux.”
What’s more, Ingres offers a C2 (C2 is a government defined security level. The definition of C2 is not unique to Ingres but the C2 level of security is unique to Ingres within the open-source databases) certified relational database management system; the ability to backup data online or offline and customize recovery process and built-in redundancy that allows workload to be spread across multiple nodes in a cluster with automatic fail-over.

Millions of downloads show lots of interest

One of the most direct threats to Ingres is MySQL which has made more progress than any other open source database company. MySQL, which snagged $18.5 million in funding on February 13, now has raised roughly $39 million, with the latest round targeted for overall corporate expansion. The technology for relational databases has been around for two decades or more. At this point, the innovation that MySQL provides is not to invent new features, but to implement them in a way that is fast, affordable and easy. Swedish database vendor MySQL AB said its free database has been downloaded 100 million times since it was released. The company also has pay-for-use options for technical support.
MySQL AB director of corporate communications Steve Curry said open source databases are so attractive because they provide most of the same functionality as the traditional database leaders – Oracle, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server – at TCO savings of up to 90 percent. Curry gave the example of the latest version of MySQL, 5.0, which the company released in October.
“It included advanced database programming features such as stored procedures, triggers and views,” he said. “Of course, these enterprise features had been in Oracle for example for several years, but never had such advanced features been available in such a low-cost, easy-to-implement product.” He added since October, the company has had more than 4 million downloads of MySQL 5.0, “so there’s obviously lots of interest.”
MySQL 5.0 Pro Certified Server gives corporate developers, DBAs and ISVs an array of new enterprise features that include ACID Transactions to build reliable and secure business critical applications; stored procedures to improve developer productivity; triggers to enforce complex business rules at the database level; views to ensure sensitive information is not compromised and information schema to provide easy access to metadata.

A lot more Toyotas on the road than Ferraris

There is a modern kind of enterprise that is interested in infrastructure flexibility and cost-savings, Curry said. These organizations are embracing the open source LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python) software stack because it scales out so well on low-cost hardware without additional complexity, cost or risk. “These enterprises may be small start-ups with big dreams for tomorrow or large organizations like Google or Yahoo that are looking to stay agile as a competitive advantage.”
“The database software market has matured over the past 20 years so that it is now a commodity marketplace, much like the auto industry,” Curry said. “Sure, some people still want Ferraris, but most everyday people do not want to pay for the extra bells and whistles and high maintenance costs. There are a lot more Toyotas and Hondas on the road than Ferraris.” He maintained the market potential is limitless because MySQL is delivering databases to people and applications that couldn’t afford to have a database before.
For Dave Dargo “The real value of open source is making it more efficient for new database features to be delivered to the market.” In his view Ingres is now positioned to be the first choice database for both large and small companies. That´s because Ingres has a couple of targeted audiences which uses the database at the high end type of solutions. For example, Ingres and Cognizant Technology Solutions just announced a partnership to provide a comprehensive business open source database and services for enterprise customers. “This is an important market and we will continue in this market,” Dargo closes.

More of a nuisance than a threat

Technology research firm Gartner argues that the release of a basic product to open source does not mean that proprietary vendors have adopted the tenets of the open source community. “Don’t bet the farm that they’ll be offering free, no-lock-in enterprise database software,” Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg said. “The market share stolen by open source database companies is more of a nuisance than a threat.”
Still Feinberg noted the fact that proprietary vendors have issued deeper discounts, scaled down versions and more advanced features like stored procedures, triggers and views at no extra cost have bolstered the case that open source database systems is having an effect. “Is resistance futile? MySQL’s refusal of Oracle’s offers shows that strong, well-funded vendors may be able to resist assimilation and keep the open source dream alive,” he said.

Barbara Gengler