Databases are making a comeback, says IDC

After a period of stagnation, all signs point to a robust recovery of the relational database management systems (RDBMS) global market.

The RDBMS market grew by 11.6 per cent to US$14.9 billion in 2004, according to a recent report by IT research firm IDC. But don’t let the numbers fool you — the market isn’t out of the woods yet, IDC cautions.

Once currency exchange rates and downward pricing pressures caused by increased vendor competition factors into the equation, the strength of the recovery is less obvious, IDC said.

But the bottom line is enterprises appear to be spending more on relational databases to integrate information. “Companies are clearly spending again to meet their backlog of database management requirements,” said Carl Olofson, research director, information management and data integration software service for IDC in a statement.

The big three – Oracle Corp, IBM Corp, and Microsoft Corp. – have traditionally dominated the RDBMS market and last year was no exception. According to IDC, these vendors make up more than two-thirds of the enterprise money spent on relational database services and licenses.

Preliminary figures from IDC reveal Oracle is the current market share leader in the worldwide RDBMS market, accounting for 41.3 percent of relational-database spending, up slightly higher from the previous year. Behind Oracle are IBM and Microsoft, garnering 30.6 per cent and 13.4 per cent of market share, respectively.

The study also reveals Microsoft experienced the strongest year-over-year growth on a percentage basis and Oracle the strongest growth on a whole dollar basis last year. Rounding out the top five, IDC reports, were software integrator Sybase Inc. and NCR Inc. (maker of the Teradata database), each securing a 3.1 per cent market share.

Overall, the market appears to have rebounded from the 2 per cent decline it experienced from 2001 to 2002, according to IDC. Much like 2003, last year marked an increase in enterprise spending on database licenses and services.

While things look rosy, IDC notes that database vendors will likely face stiff market competition from upstart open source database companies, who have been touting the benefits of open-source databases such as reduced total cost of ownership, higher stability and greater overall control.

IDC also anticipates the mid-market as the new combat zone for RDBMS dominance, particularly as Oracle and IBM shift aggressively into the market the same time as Microsoft (which currently leads this space) prepares for its summer release of SQL Server 2005.

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