In this article, Vikram Vaswani discusses the ways in which SQL plays an important role in the computer market today, and what may be in store for this database language in the future. This excerpt comes from chapter 26 of MySQL: The Complete Reference, by Vikram Vaswani (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, ISBN 0-07-222477-0, 2004).
Despite the maturing of some parts of the database market (especially the market for corporate enterprise-class database systems), it continues to develop new segments and niches that appear and then grow rapidly. For much of the 1990s, the most useful way to segment the database market has been based on database size and scale—there were PC databases, minicomputer databases, mainframe databases, and later, workgroup databases. Today’s database market is much more diverse and is more accurately segmented based on target application and specialized database capabilities to address unique application requirements. Market segments that have appeared and have experienced high growth include:
Data warehousing databases, focused on managing thousands of gigabytes of data, such as historical retail purchase data.
Online analytic processing (OLAP) and relational online analytic processing (ROLAP) databases, focused on carrying out complex analyses of data to discover underlying trends (data mining), allowing organizations to make better business decisions.
Mobile databases, in support of mobile workers such as salespeople, support personnel, field service people, consultants, and mobile professionals. Often, these mobile databases are tied back to a centralized database for synchronization.
Embedded databases, which are an integral, transparent part of an application sold by an independent software vendor (ISV) or a value-added reseller (VAR). These databases are characterized by small footprints and very simple administration.
Microdatabases, designed for appliance-type devices, such as smart cards, network computers, smart phones, and handheld PCs and organizers.
In-memory databases, designed for ultra-high-performance OLTP applications, such as those embedded in telecomm and data communications networks and used to support customer interaction in very high-volume Internet applications.
Clustered databases, designed to take advantage of powerful, low-cost servers used in parallel to perform database management tasks with high scalability and reliability.
Packaged Enterprise Applications
A decade or two ago, the vast majority of corporate applications were developed in-house by the company’s information systems department. Decisions about database technology and vendor standardization were part of the company’s IS architecture planning function. Leading-edge companies sometimes took a risk on new, relatively unproven database technologies in the belief that they could gain competitive advantage by using them. Sybase’s rise to prominence in the financial services sector during the late 1980s and early 1990s is an example.
Today, most corporations have shifted from make to buy strategies for major enterprisewide applications. Examples include ERP applications, SCM applications, HRM applications, SFA applications, CRM applications, and others. All of these areas are now supplied as enterprise-class packaged applications, along with consulting, customization, and installation services, by groups of software vendors. Several of these vendors have reached multihundred-million-dollar annual revenues. All of these packages are built on a foundation of SQL-based relational databases.
The emergence of dominant purchased enterprise applications has had a significant effect on the dynamics of the database market. The major enterprise software package vendors have tended to support DBMS products from only two or three of the major DBMS vendors. For example, if a customer chooses to deploy SAP as its enterprisewide ERP application, the underlying database is restricted to those supported by the SAP packages. This has tended to reinforce the dominant position of the current top-tier enterprise database players and make it more difficult for newer database vendors. It has also tended to lower average database prices, as the DBMS is viewed more as a component part of an application-driven decision rather than a strategic decision in its own right.
The emergence of packaged enterprise software has also shifted the relative power of corporate IS organizations and the packaged software vendors. The DBMS vendors today have marketing and business development teams focused on the major enterprise application vendors to ensure that the latest versions of the applications support their DBMS and to support performance tuning and other activities. The largest independent DBMS vendor, Oracle Corporation, is playing both roles, supplying both DBMS software and major enterprise applications (that run on the Oracle DBMS, of course). Oracle’s single-vendor approach has created some considerable tension between Oracle and the largest enterprise applications vendors, especially in the ranks of their field sales organizations. Some industry analysts attribute the growing DBMS market share of IBM and Microsoft to a tendency for enterprise application vendors to steer prospective customers away from Oracle’s DBMS products as a result.
Remember: this is chapter 26 of MySQL: The Complete Reference, by Vikram Vaswani (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, ISBN 0-07-222477-0, 2004). Vikram is the founder of Melonfire, and has had numerous articles featured on Dev Shed. Buy this book now.