Top 10 Enterprise Database Systems to Consider

By Kenneth Hess (Send Email)
Posted May 20, 2010

How far back does your knowledge of databases go -- late-1980s, mid-1990s, five years ago? If so, you might not recognize some of the old timers in this list. You'll also do a double take if you didn't know many of them have their roots in the mid-to-late 1970s. It would be hard to argue that the database market is not mature.

It's also highly competitive, and enterprise database systems come packed with features from hot backups to high-availability. These database systems range in price from free to tens of thousands of dollars. There's no single correct answer for every data problem. Nor is there a perfect database system; each has its own set of features and shortcomings. Got data? Need a database server? Chances are you'll be considering at least one of these 10 to meet your needs.

Here is a shortcut to the research you need to determine which solution is best for you.

1. Oracle

Oracle began its journey in 1979 as the first commercially available relational database management system (RDBMS). Oracle's name is synonymous with enterprise database systems, unbreakable data delivery and fierce corporate competition from CEO Larry Ellison. Powerful but complex database solutions are the mainstay of this Fortune 500 company (currently 105th but 27th in terms of profitability).

2. SQL Server

Say what you will about Microsoft and its interesting collection of officers. It's profitability exceeds all other tech companies, and SQL Server helped put it there. Sure, Microsoft's desktop operating system is everywhere, but if you're running a Microsoft Server, you're likely running SQL Server on it. SQL Server's ease of use, availability and tight Windows operating system integration makes it an easy choice for firms that choose Microsoft products for their enterprises. Currently, Microsoft touts SQL Server 2008 as the platform for business intelligence solutions.

3. DB2

Big Blue puts the big into data centers with DB2. DB2 runs on Linux, UNIX, Windows and mainframes. IBM pits its DB2 9.7 system squarely in competition with Oracle's 11g, via the International Technology Group, and shows significant cost savings for those that migrate to DB2 from Oracle. How significant? How does 34 percent to 39 percent for comparative installations over a three-year period sound?

4. Sybase

Sybase is still a major force in the enterprise market after 25 years of success and improvements to its Adaptive Server Enterprise product. Although its market share dwindled for a few years, it's returning with powerful positioning in the next-generation transaction processing space. Sybase has also thrown a considerable amount of weight behind the mobile enterprise by delivering partnered solutions to the mobile device market.

5. MySQL

MySQL began as a niche database system for developers but grew into a major contender in the enterprise database market. Sold to Sun Microsystems in 2008, MySQL is currently part of the Oracle empire (January 2010). More than just a niche database now, MySQL powers commercial websites by the hundreds of thousands and a huge number of internal enterprise applications. Although MySQL's community and commercial adopters had reservations about Oracle's ownership of this popular open source product, Oracle has publicly declared its commitment to ongoing development and support.

6. PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL, the world's most advanced open source database, hides in such interesting places as online gaming applications, data center automation suites and domain registries. It also enjoys some high-profile duties at Skype, Yahoo! and MySpace. PostgreSQL is in so many strange and obscure places that it might deserve the moniker, "Best Kept Enterprise Database Secret." Version 9.0, currently in beta, will arrive for general consumption later this year.

7. Teradata

Have you ever heard of Teradata? If you've built a large data warehouse in your enterprise, you probably have. As early as the late 1970s, Teradata laid the groundwork for the first data warehouse -- before the term existed. It created the first terabyte database for Wal-Mart in 1992. Since that time, data warehousing experts almost always say Teradata in the same sentence as enterprise data warehouse.

8. Informix

Another IBM product in the list brings you to Informix. IBM offers several Informix versions -- from its limited Developer Edition, to its entry-level Express Edition, to a low-maintenance online transaction processing (OLTP) Workgroup Edition all the way up to its high-performance OLTP Enterprise Edition. Often associated with universities and colleges, Informix made the leap to the corporate world to take a No. 1 spot in customer satisfaction. Informix customers often speak of its low cost, low maintenance and high reliability.

9. Ingres

Ingres is the parent open source project of PostgreSQL and other database systems, and it is still around to brag about it. Ingres is all about choice and choosing might mean lowering your total cost of ownership for an enterprise database system. Other than an attractive pricing structure, Ingres prides itself on its ability to ease your transition from costlier database systems. Ingres also incorporates security features required for HIPPA and Sarbanes Oxley compliance.

10. Amazon's SimpleDB

Databases and Amazon.com seem worlds apart, but they aren't. Amazon's SimpleDB offers enterprises a simple, flexible and inexpensive alternative to traditional database systems. SimpleDB boasts low maintenance, scalability, speed and Amazon services integration. As part of Amazon's EC2 offering, you can get started with SimpleDB for free.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which is scheduled for publication in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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