Duelling databases: Four apps tested

Summary:Databases are by no means an easy product category to understand. Many of the big players now offer free or "light" versions of their databases, but comparing them all is no easy task -- as we found out.

Databases are by no means an easy product category to understand. Many of the big players now offer free or "light" versions of their databases, but comparing them all is no easy task -- as we found out.

For many businesses, a database is the vital organ that lives, breathes, and protects precious data -- the treasured jewel of their enterprise. Everything they know, and every way to know it, is dictated by these all-powerful tools.

Even skimming the surface of their capability is a daunting prospect. To test them completely would require not only complete and established infrastructure but ways of simulating workloads, demands, data types, queries, and so on.

Because of the great diversity of database, some context is undoubtedly required. Our scenario in this comparison calls for a database solution for a relatively small e-commerce company with less than 200 employees. The company sells DVDs and books over the Internet and will initially have around 1000 customers and an online inventory of 50,000 items.

Like all companies, this one has plans for future growth and would like to see a customer base in the hundreds of thousands, and would like to diversify their inventory to the point where millions of items are available online.

The database must look after their stock, customer lists, and seamlessly integrate with their accounting system for billing and purchasing.

Initially the database must run effectively on a dual processor or four-way server but must be able to scale up to a small server farm should the demand exist. The company does not want to entertain solutions whose only scalable path is for very expensive multi-processor servers greater than four-way. For our testing we installed the databases on a Dell PowerEdge 6600 with Quad Xeon processors and 4GB of memory.

Cost of the initial server and database software is certainly an issue, so ideally the company is looking for software that is capable of scaling up with the addition of more hardware, or has a clean and simple migration path towards more powerful enterprise versions of the software.

Obviously ease of configuration and administration is paramount -- the in-house staff must be able to easily enter and update data, while the novice administrator must be able to make minor changes to the database on the fly.

This being our first foray into this product category, we tried to keep it simple, and decided to look at the entry-level databases from a handful of vendors including Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and MySQL. That said, already MySQL's product is in a different category to the rest because it doesn't come in "light" versions -- it was included because it is free. While there are other popular database products available, such as Sybase, we will save a full comparison for another time.

Note: At the time of this review Microsoft was in the midst of updating its database portfolio, and only the Beta version was available, and just prior to printing Oracle released a new database that is free of charge.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Big Data, Reviews

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