Database Wars Heat Up

A few weeks ago, I discussed consolidation in the relational database management system (RDBMS) market and pointed out that IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle are now essentially the only three RDBMS vendors that matter. Recent market-share numbers from Gartner Dataquest support this position (Tables 1 through 3 below).

Table 1. 2000 Worldwide RDBMS (All OSs) Software Revenue Based on New License Sales (Millions of US Dollars)

Table 2. 2000 Worldwide Windows NT/Windows 2000 RDBMS Software Revenue Based on New License Sales (Millions of US Dollars)

Table 3. 2000 Worldwide UNIX RDBMS Software Revenue Based on New License Sales (Millions of US Dollars)

I've made a few observations from this data:

  • 84 percent of the world's RDBMS software comes from IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. The other vendors have become irrelevant.
  • Windows is a dominant RDBMS platform. Revenue grew 34 percent on the Win2K and NT platforms compared to 15 percent for all platforms and 17 percent for UNIX.
  • Windows RDBMS platforms are fast approaching UNIX in total market revenue. Windows RDBMS systems sales totaled about $2.3 billion compared to about $3.0 billion for UNIX RDBMS software.
  • If current growth rates hold steady, Windows RDBMS sales will close to within almost 10 percent of UNIX sales within 1 year. In fact, I predict that Windows RDBMS growth will accelerate while growth on the UNIX platform slows. Why? Because dot-com implosions have made people much more careful about how they spend their money, and Windows RDBMS solutions tend to be more cost-effective than UNIX solutions.
  • Oracle is still clearly the king of the hill, but its future is cloudy. Oracle sells more than two times as many UNIX RDBMS systems as all other vendors combined. However, the recent Gartner Dataquest numbers show that Windows is the RDBMS sweet spot. Both IBM and Microsoft grew their relative RDBMS market share in the Windows market while Oracle's market share declined.

"Everyone thought things were starting to mellow out in the database market," says Gartner Dataquest's Betsey Burton. "But the bottom line is the database wars aren't over."

The database has always and will always live at the heart of business computing. The database wars will never be over, and next year's battle will be interesting.

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