Free for all
do you react when database majors put profits on the back burner and start giving
away their flagship RDBMS for free? Kumar Dawada goes behind the scenes
and attempts to find method to the seeming madness.
Organisations are dependent on their IT implementations. At the heart of these
deployments, you will usually find a database. Diverse organisations customise
their database systems for anything from simple accounting such as keeping track
of inventory or payroll systems, to managing complex transactions such as running
Web sites or keeping track of the financial transactions of all the branches
of a large bank.
A major decision faced currently by any organisation, large or small, is whether
it should deploy an open source database or play it safe and go for a commercial
solution. Until recently, this decision was easy. If you sat on the open source
software (OSS) side of the fence, you went for MySQL and PostgreSQL. On the
commercial side, you had Oracle 10g, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and IBM DB Universal
Moreover, the commercial packages were far ahead in terms of features in the
past. However, the latest releases of MySQL and PostgreSQL have changed that.
They now offer most of the advanced features that were hitherto available only
on commercial software. On top of this, they are either free or available at
a relatively low cost.
It is perhaps in response to this trend that the leaders in the commercial segment
have come up with some interesting schemes to ensure that companies continue
to prefer their products to the OSS ones.
Firing The First Salvo
When Oracle purchased Innobase, the company which provides the InnoDB storage
engine of MySQL and is regarded as one of the best database engine for those
applications requiring online transactions, it drew a line in the sand. InnoDB
is not a standalone database product. It is sold with every copy of the MySQL
database. According to mysql.com, MySQL has more than six million active installations
and its users include large organisations like Yahoo, Suzuki, NASA and The Associated
Press. Innobase had an annual contract with MySQL and as the current contract
expires, the new contract will be drawn up by rival Oracle. Where does this
development leave MySQL? Will it develop a new version of the InnoDB database
engine based on the current open source code since it is under GPL (General
Public Licence), or will it have to find or build another open source database
MySQLs reaction is interesting. It announced that it is working with its
customers to find an alternative to the open source InnoDB database engine used
in the MySQL database.
The Second Salvo
Oracles next announcement was that it would provide a free lite
version of its flagship Oracle 10g database. Microsoft followed suit by offering
a free express version of its Microsoft SQL Server 2005. However,
these free editions have limitationsthey support only a single CPU and
1 GB of addressable memory and the maximum database size cannot exceed 4 GB.
That said, these are quite respectable limits and many SMBs could cut their
teeth on these versions and later look at migrating to the full versions which
is probably just what the vendors must be hoping for.
Where do these developments leave customers,developers
and competitors? From a short-term perspective, it is good news for customers
and developers who can take their pick of the best database software free
or at a very low cost. Intense competition will also force vendors to
constantly improve and upgrade their features
Where do these developments leave customers, developers and
competitors? From a short-term perspective, it is good news for customers and
developers who can take their pick of the best database software free or at
a very low cost. Intense competition will also force vendors to constantly improve
and upgrade their features.
From an Indian perspective, again, these developments are
good. India has an immense pool of talented people who lack the financial resources
for a proper international standard training. Free versions of commercial software
will be a boon for students as well as the developer community.
|To decide the million-dollar question of choosing
open source or commercial database, the CIOs or IT Heads of organisation
normally consider many factors. The main factor is the budget or cost of
the deployment or implementation.
Other factors include the size of their database,
scalability options, high availability, the features and functionality
of the database product, typical hardware requirement, typical acquisition
cost and total cost of ownership, availability of proper support, ease
of finding IT admins with the necessary skill sets, operating systems
supported and so on.
Many organisations are willing to pay substantial
amounts of money to commercial vendors for the advanced features, security
and support that their products provide. However, the open source market
has become a force to reckon with and these players have so far given
commercial software a run for its money.
There is no single factor to tilt the balance in
favour of commercial or open source database. The decision differs from
organisation to organisation and from time to time.
Open Source Perspective
For open source competitors like MySQL this could be very bad news. Oracles
purchase of Innobase lets it calculate the exact value of MySQLs market
share because InnoDB has been bundled with every copy of MySQL. Oracle can also
get a list of customers who need InnoDB support, especially from the enterprise
In the case of PostgreSQL, it could be tough going if Oracle uses its leverage
with MySQL to keep the latter as a low-cost promotional database tool and maintains
its strong hold on the entry-level database market and uses it to migrate potential
users to its upscale offerings.
Long Term Effects
Commercial vendors like CA, IBM, and SAP have been actively
encouraging the open source industry. The move to release a variation
of their flagship products for the open source community has its own rewards.
They can get the benefit of the expertise of thousands of open source
developers and drastically improve their database technology or rectify
their pain points
Commercial vendors like CA, IBM, and SAP have been actively
encouraging the open source industry. The move to release a variation of their
flagship products for the open source community has its own rewards. They can
get the benefit of the expertise of thousands of open source developers and
drastically improve their database technology or rectify their pain points.
When the product is sufficiently enhanced and improved by the developers, it
could then be sold as a commercial version. This gives the benefit of low-cost
development as well as high returns.
The long-term perspective of this database free-for-all could mean the end of
the open source industry. Many Indian organisations including the government
sector are banking upon open source software. Any adverse impact on the open
source products will be a cause for concern.
Chinar Deshpande, CIO, Pantaloon believes that the distribution
of free or trial versions of commercial databases is good for the IT industry.
An organisations IT team can properly assess the backend application.
They can get hands on practise without any investment. This enables an enterprise
to make an educated decision on whether or not to actually invest in a commercial
database, elaborates Deshpande.
Sanjay Sharma, Corporate Head Technology, IDBI Bank
feels that free versions of commercial databases are part of a long term business
strategy on part of the vendors who are ignoring the short term monetary loss
due to non recovery of the amount spent on product development. By distributing
a free version of their product, these vendors are creating a large user and
developer base for their product. These people will develop the comfort levels,
expertise and skills for usage and development in the long run which centres
around that product, emphasises Sharma.
The open source movement is keeping commercial vendors on their toes and encouraging
them to keep improving their products. They also prevent market stagnation by
preventing any one player or a single alliance from totally dominating the database
market. However, the open source industry does not have the finance or resources
to sustain a prolonged and aggressive competition. In the database free-for-all,
the last man standing may well be the commercial vendors.
No of CPUs supported
User data limits
Pricing and licensing
|Oracle Database 10g Express Edition
||Developers, SMBs, DBAs, educational institutions,
students and ISVs
||Free to develop, deploy, and distribute
|Oracle 10g Enterprise Edition
||Up to 8 exabytes
||$800 per named user plus (minimum 25 users per CPU)
or $40,000 per CPU for unlimited use
||Supports cluster and grid environment
|Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition
||Developers, SMBs, DBA, educational institutions,
students and ISVs
||Free to download and use. Royalty free redistribution
but registration required
|MS SQL 2005 Enterprise Edition
||$24,999 for processor license or $13,969 for server
plus user or device CALs (client access licences) with 25 CALs.
||Fast recovery, data mining, text mining, business
||Source code available under BSD open source licence
||Like MVCC (multi-version concurrency control), point
in time recovery, asynchronous replication and write ahead logging for fault
||Supports terabytes of data
||Free software / open source GNU GPL or $49 per named
user on single CPU systems with a minimum of five users or $1,490 per CPU
without user limitations
|| Continuous operation, designed for large number
of users and high workloads and supports all major SAP solutions
|| No limit
||Dual licensing model - GPL or commercial mySQL licence
||Available in cluster version to support cluster architecture