The database market wakes up from hibernation?

For most of the last 20 years that I’ve worked in databases, the industry has been pretty boring. Proof? It has been 10 years since Gardner group bothered to update a magic quadrant for operational/OLTP databases. You would think a $20B+ market would be worth some analysis, but not much has been going on.

20 Years ago your options used to be Oracle, IBM, Informix, and Sybase. Then Infomix hit financial troubles and was scooped up by IBM. Sybase did a deal with Microsoft that didn’t quite work out as planned and, after diversifying their remaining business, eventually was bought by SAP. 20 years later, your options were Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft.

Things have now gotten interesting. Looking at a ranking of database popularity, MongoDB is ahead of Sybase. Rewinding a bit further in database history to Ingres (ranked #30, and the last major RDBMS to fall away before my story started 20 years ago), some of the systems that have become more popular than Ingres include Cassandra, HBase, CouchDB, Netezza, Riak, Vertica, Neo4j, Couchbase, SAP HANA, and Greenplum (in that order).

The good news is that the market is waking up. All these new entrants are have created innovation. Customers are thinking differently and asking questions. And analysts are answering the questions: Gartner will do another magic quadrant.

Two interesting questions for the audience:

1. Will they call actually call it OLTP or will they describe it, more accurately in my view, as “Operational” database? I think there is still a split between operational and analytic workloads, but I don’t think OLTP is the correct way to describe many important operational workloads. I am optimistic that they will broaden the focus.

2. Any predictions on who is included and who is not? How many “traditional” databases vs NoSQL databases? If I were making the MQ, I would include:


Oracle (Oracle RDBMS and MySQL), IBM (DB2 and Informix), MSFT, SAP (both Sybase and HANA), Postgres


MongoDB, Cassandra, Couchbase, HBase, maybe Neo4j and Riak


MarkLogic (XML) and Intersystems Cache (Object)

For a total of 16 databases, half of which are relational. For open source technologies I believe Gartner will look at vendors and vendors with multiple products will only get one entry, so my actual prediction is 5-6 relational vendors and 6-7 non-relational.

I won’t try to predict who winds up where, but I’d love to hear opinions on who will and won’t be included and where folks will end up.

— Max

1 comment so far

  1. J. Cliff Elam (@cliffelam) on

    I haven’t heard the phrase “Gartner Magic Quadrant” in years, so maybe what’s most interesting here is that technologists are driving deployment options without the kinds of framework you and I used to use. If I were prone to overstatement (ok, I am, so I will) I’d say that open source and cloud kind of nailed a thesis on the door that said: try a bunch of stuff for free and the business guys will work it out later.


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