Open Source Strategies

A blog about open source software and business models, enterprise software, and the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM Suite.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Week of the Open Source Database

This past week (November 7 - 11) should be officially named "the Week of the Open Source Database." In addition to the open source database conference in Frankfurt, Germany, there were these other interesting developments:

Oracle Opens Up

Oracle released a free version of their database, "Oracle Express Edition," this week. The initial license for the beta version seems to be a classic shareware license - you can test it but not use it in production, but they've promised that they'll release it under a new license that's free to develop, deploy, and distribute.

What's truly amazing about this is that according to Oracle investor relations, open source is a tiny part of the database market. Oracle has a whopping 41% market share, followed by IBM at 31% and Microsoft at 13%. All open source databases, including MySQL and PostgreSQL, are in the "Other" category which, together with minor commercial databases, command 9% of the market.

This has to be a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.

Computer Associates Punts

In other news, Computer Associates divested its Ingres database to a venture capital firm. Since open source is still such a small part of the database market (according to Oracle above), there could yet be a good place for it alongside MySQL, PostgreSQL, Firebird, and Derby. More importantly, it may also free Computer Associates up to partner with other open source databases or vendors.

But the lesson is also that it can be very hard for a commercial software vendor to reinvigorate a declining product using open source. Computer Associates reportedly spent $1 million promoting Ingres last year, apparently trying to jump start a developer community for Ingres by offering cash prizes. Maybe the new owners should consider investing in better code quality, documentation, and grass roots seminars for potential users or developers?

How Much Potential is there for Open Source Databases?

We recently did a database study of our own at Sequoia Open Source ERP: We asked people which database they would use, since Sequoia Open Source ERP is compatible with most major databases.

Over 1,760 potential users responded, and the result surprised even us. An overwhelming 90% of open source ERP users wanted an open source database. In contrast, only 7% wanted a commercial one.

This seems to point to two trends:
  1. As people get used to open source, they'll want to use open source everywhere.
  2. As open source business applications such as ERP and CRM mature, they'll drive even more users to open source databases.
If there is really this much potential ahead for open source databases, then it makes sense why Oracle would offer a free edition and why an investor would snap up Ingres.

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