Relational Databases and Information Integration

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Ever since the 1980s, relational databases have served as the backbone for data storage and retrieval in the business information-management environment. During the past 30 years, that norm really hasn’t changed: Relational database management systems (RDBMSs) continue to serve as the standard for businesses today.

A recent study of the relational database market conducted by Gartner Inc. supports that reality. According to the study, RDBMSs software revenue worldwide totaled $13.8 billion in 2005, an 8.3 percent increase from 2004. The study also identified the top five vendors in the RDMS market: Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Teradata and Sybase.

“If any organizations need a database, chances are they will select an RDMS—regardless of the application they have in mind,” said Howard Fosdick, president of Fosdick Consulting Inc., an IT management consultancy and database administrator contractor. “Oracle, IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server are the big three commercial products. Market share studies vary, but usually Oracle and IBM are each given about one-third of the total market. Microsoft usually has one-sixth and all the others systems have one-sixth of the market.”

The Gartner study showed that Oracle held approximately half the market share in 2005 while IBM held 22 percent and Microsoft held 15 percent. Of the different RDBMS platforms, Linux grew the fastest. The study found this was primarily driven by Oracle and the growing user acceptance of the Linux platform as a mission-critical database management system (DBMS) platform.

Because relational databases specialize in relating individual data records grouped by type in tables, organizations can realize many benefits from a successful RDBMS implementation. According to Fosdick, “RDBMS benefits include that it is based on sound mathematical theory of data invented by Dr. Edgar Frank Codd and others; it uses easy to use data access language, SQL; it is standardized across all vendors by ANSI (American National Standards Institute); and it is predominate in the marketplace—with a lot of labor, support, training, etc. available.

However, relational databases sometimes lack flexibility to integrate with other systems. According to Fosdick, implementing RDBMSs can be challenging as well. “RDBMS applications can be very inefficient and slow if not implemented properly or with proper knowledge. RDBMSs usually require skilled DBAs for proper implementation,” he explained. Managing the performance of RDBMSs, Fosdick said, is often trying as well—especially for very large systems with many users online all at once.

Looking ahead, open-source database management systems are likely to grow in popularity as they continue to improve in terms of functionality and scalability. According to the Gartner study, MySQL and Ingres showed the strongest growth in 2005, although open-source database management systems remained one of the smallest revenue bases. Fosdick said, “Open-source database systems bring up some big questions such as, what will the impact of open-source databases be, how much market share they will capture and is IT accepting them. These are all open questions that will be key over the next several years. Currently the big two for open-source RDBMS are MySQL and PostGreSQL.”

Overall, Gartner projects that the worldwide RDBMS market is in position for continued growth through 2010 as data management and integration continues to be deemed strategically important to the overall success of businesses. In addition, the vast amount of data captured by organizations today will contribute to the continued growth of the RDBMS market.

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