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Few open source databases are displacing commercial Oracle, SQL Server, or DB2 systems, but they are being adopted for use with new, interactive Web applications, small portals, RFID applications, and other new workloads in the enterprise.
Noel Yuhanna, database analyst with Forrester Research, said these uses are increasing the adoption of open source databases and increasing the size of the market from $850 million this year to $1.2 billion by 2010. Open source databases, which are freely downloadable, produce revenue from users who pay for training, technical support, consulting, or a commercial version of the product.
Another way to measure annual open source database revenue is to note it still falls short of the price that Sun Microsystems paid to acquire one of the systems, MySQL AB, which it bought last February for $1 billion. Other open source databases are Ingres, the embedded system; BerkeleyDB, now owned by Oracle but still open source code; PostgreSQL, which finds its way into products from EnterpriseDB and Greenplum; and Derby, an Apache Software Foundation database project. MySQL is the most popular and is used by such Web heavyweights as eBay, Travelocity, and Google.
"Open source databases have come a long way in delivering reliable, robust; and secure database platforms. Forrester estimates that 80% of application requirements can be met using only 25% of the features and functionality that closed source commercial databases offer," wrote Yuhanna in a July 17 "Market Update" report. Open source database functionality can meet the needs of 80% of existing business applications, he added.
A key ingredient of the current uptake of open source database for new applications is their maturity, he added.
"Some customers are running mission-critical transactional deployments with over three terabytes of data on open source databases, while others are running very large workloads that support hundreds and thousands of concurrent users," he noted.
MySQL in particular has built out a thriving ecosystem around the core database, with partners and independent software vendors making use of MySQL in vertical applications, he wrote.
But in many cases, it is impractical to replace an existing commercial system with an open source database. The commercial systems have proprietary characteristics, such as Oracle's PL/SQL extensions to the SQL data access language, or T-SQL in Microsoft's SQL Server. A considerable investment in rewriting stored procedures, applications, and queries has to accompany a conversion effort, he noted.