A neutral perspective of the current database industry

A neutral perspective of the current database industry

According to db-engines, there are more than 317 database software in the market right now. If you have requirements to develop a new application , how do you know which database to use? When I started my career in 2011, the de facto standard was to use Oracle database. It was mature, reliable and able to support multiple types of workload. If you can’t afford Oracle database, you could use MySQL, if you require high performance with HA capabilities. If you require a mature product with strict compliant to ANSI SQL standards, there’s always PostgreSQL. However, Oracle is still the #1 choice for a lot of reasons. Also, Oracle DBAs were also paid the most, compared to other databases DBA.

Five years has passed, a lot has changed in the database industry. Even though Oracle is still the #1 in the market, there are many other comparable choices now. Oracle supporters will claim that Oracle database is still the best and no other database products will come close. They will also claim that NoSQL products are overhyped and will die down soon enough. Open-source supporters will spread hate on Oracle, claim that it’s overpriced and that you don’t need Oracle database at all.

In my opinion, enterprise companies AKA companies whom are loaded with cash, will still continue to pay 7 figures for Oracle support contract. They continue to do so because they are not willing to migrate their legacy application to something else. Also, It doesn’t make sense for them to use other database software when they have unlimited license usage for Oracle software. It’s also possible that the CIO aren’t willing to risk his/her neck by changing the database stack 🙂 For companies that aren’t as rich, usually their ERP software will still be stuck using Oracle database. That’s if they haven’t move to a cloud ERP yet. For new applications, they are already looking at alternatives.

Oracle is still the #1 database, in terms of technical superiority. No other databases vendors have implemented Oracle’s Real Application Cluster (RAC). It’s an extremely powerful feature that offers possibly, zero downtime for node failure. However, how many real life applications require that? Is it feasible to have that feature for an additional 23,000 USD/core? Is it acceptable to have 15s of downtime during node failure instead? That would decrease your cost to about nothing for licensing.

If you have a multiple terabyte application, the cost of having that on a Oracle database is not going to be cheap. A four-core EE licensed server is going to cost you at least 200,000 USD already. If you run it on MongoDB or MySQL, it’s not going to cost you anything. Obviously, your application needs to be able to able to support that (ACID compliant). If you help your company to save that 200k USD, you might find a sweeter bonus at the end of the year!

Oracle database has got a lot of great technology behind it. The database optimisation engine is far more impressive than any other vendors I know. They had parallel query even before version 8i. PostgreSQL only had it recently. However, Oracle database sales team has been trying to piss off their customers for awhile now.I know that several banks in Asean region are using PostgreSQL/MySQL for their new applications Also, many companies are banning new Oracle database implementations implicitly unless there’s no alternatives. People didn’t have much choice for choosing database software back then. It is vastly different now.

It’s a lot harder to pick the right database for new applications now. It used to be just Oracle and Oracle only. These days, you got to think of the nature and volume of the data/application. You also need to decide if your application requires ACID. If you are using NoSQL, there’s graph, key-value, document and columnar. You don’t really want to use the wrong database for your application. Using the wrong datastore for your application will result into sub-optimal performance or ugly workarounds that you wouldn’t like. For example, you could use MongoDB for text search. However, a better database for heavy text search use case would be Elasticsearch. Just because MongoDB have text indexes and is able to perform text search doesn’t mean it’s the right datastore for it. Heck, you could even use MySQL as a pure key-value storage. Databases is all about polyglot persistence these days.

I believe that in years to come, Oracle database will become the mainframe of database software. Highly profitable yet legacy piece of software whereby companies only use it because they were too afraid to use something else. For all my friends that still works actively on Oracle databases, perhaps it’s time to learn a new skill or move on to something else.

Wei Shan

4 thoughts on “A neutral perspective of the current database industry”

  1. Thanks for your advice to Oracle dbas. I must say, you seem to have moved on pretty quick from the Oracle database since starting your career using Oracle in 2011.

    1. I moved out from Oracle database administration after 3 years as it was getting too boring for my liking. I got a chance to move into database engineering so I took it. Never looked back since, except to admire Oracle’s technical superiority as compared to some open-source databases. 🙂

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