Analysts: ISVs key to MySQL strategy in Asia

As Oracle boosts investment in MySQL server to win over Microsoft customers, market watchers advise it should target independent software vendors to win Asia.

Support from independent software vendors (ISV) and channel partners is crucial for Oracle to woo customers over to MySQL from Microsoft SQL Server, said analysts.

In an e-mail interview, Bhavish Sood, principal research analyst at Gartner, said Microsoft has enjoyed a much larger share in the relational database management system (RDBMS) market in the region, compared with MySQL under previous owners Sun Microsystems and MySQL AB.

Sood said Microsoft had 23.5 percent of the Asia-Pacific market in 2009, while MySQL had 0.3 percent.

He attributed Microsoft's success to several reasons, one of which is the ISV community support behind SQL Server.

Sood highlighted SAP's use of Microsoft's product, noting that most purchases of SQL Server in Asia occur through clients buying business or operational applications from vendors such as SAP.

The ecosystem of large channel partners selling and implementing SQL Server has also helped boost Microsoft's lead, as has the large developer community creating apps on .NET and SQL Server, he added.

He said other factors which have helped boost Microsoft's lead are its pricing strategy and customer support functions.

London-based Vuk Trifkovic, senior analyst at Ovum IT applications, said in an e-mail interview: "While it would be foolish to turn [the traditional MySQL] user base away, Oracle's best chance of displacing Microsoft SQL Server deployments would be through targeting the ISV channel as well as through assembling a neat stack of applications or development tools around the database.

"Oracle has plenty of tools in its portfolio to assemble such a stack, but has not traditionally targeted [the developer] segment of the market aggressively," he added.

Oracle tried buying MySQL in 2006, but the deal fell through. It eventually acquired the RBDMS this year as part of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

Ovum's Trifkovic noted that Oracle needs to prove it is serious about its commitment to MySQL. "Oracle's chief worry in keeping its current customers is to battle the perception that Oracle will neglect MySQL in one form or another, pushing customers to either consider MySQL forks such as Drizzle and MariaDB or [turn to] commercial RDBMS altogether," he said.

Since the acquisition, Oracle has tried to demonstrate commitment to MySQL. Chief corporate architect Edward Screven said in April that the company is increasing investments in the database software and making it more competitive with Microsoft's SQL Server.

Oracle's investment in MySQL also boosts market exposure for the database system, said Stuart Williams, software business practice manager at Technology Business Research, adding that Oracle is also able to promote MySQL much more aggresively than Sun did or had the capacity to promote.

"Oracle has much greater reach and frequency for its advertising, promotion, direct sales support and partner coverage for the database market than Sun and it will leverage all of those capabilities to increase the share of MySQL over Microsoft SQL Server," he added.

Battle for the SMB market
Williams said Oracle seeks to displace Microsoft's growing presence in the small and midsize business (SMB) segment with its Database 11g and MySQL products.

Just last month, Microsoft released SQL Server 2008 R2, aimed at offering business intelligence (BI) capabilities to the masses. According to Microsoft, BI tools are available to only 20 percent of an organization's workers, and the new release of SQL Server will be able to let regular users use familiar Microsoft Office tools to produce insights from data.

Mark Jewett, senior director, application platform, Asia-Pacific of Microsoft's server and tools business told ZDNet Asia in an interview that SQL customers had noted a lower cost of ownership when deploying its database system.

"The cost of software is only one component of the cost of solution. There's the labor, software and hardware that takes to run the system," said Jewett. "When you put those things together, Microsoft consistently comes out as the leader of total cost of ownership.

"We're still the only company that includes with the database the key BI features," he said

More competition looms on the horizon for Oracle and Microsoft. Earlier this week, German enterprise software vendor SAP announced its plans to acquire database software company Sybase. If the acquisition closes, SAP will automatically enter the region's top five database software market, noted an analyst in a previous ZDNet Asia report.

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