As DBMS wars continue, PostgreSQL shows most momentum

When it comes to the most popular database management systems, the top three are no surprise; but relatively unheralded PostgreSQL is gaining. And, despite what you may have heard, relational databases still rule.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

It's hard to tell which database management systems (DBMB)s are the most popular. DB-Engines gives it a try every month. And, by its count, Oracle is still the top DBMS, followed closed by Oracle's open-source DBMS MySQL, which is just noses ahead of Microsoft SQL Server.


After the power trio of databases, there's a huge drop-off to PostgreSQL in fourth place. MongoDB, the leading NoSQL DBMS, places fifth. While PostgreSQL is a distant fourth, it's shown the most upward momentum of any DBMS in the top ten. 

To work out what's hot, and what's not, DB-Engines uses the following factors:

  • Number of mentions of the system on websites, measured as number of results in search engines queries. At the moment, we use Google and Bing for this measurement. In order to count only relevant results, we are searching for "<system name> database", e.g. "Oracle database".
  • General interest in the system. For this measurement, we use the frequency of searches in Google Trends.
  • Frequency of technical discussions about the system. We use the number of related questions and the number of interested users on the well-known IT-related Q&A sites Stack Overflow and DBA Stack Exchange.
  • Number of job offers, in which the system is mentioned. We use the number of offers on the leading job search engines Indeed and Simply Hired.
  • Number of profiles in professional networks, in which the system is mentioned. We use the internationally most popular professional network LinkedIn.
  • Relevance in social networks. We count the number of Twitter tweets, in which the system is mentioned.

The company then calculates the popularity value of a system by standardizing and averaging of the individual parameters. These mathematical transformations are made so that the distance of the individual systems is preserved. That means, when system A has twice as large a value in the DB-Engines Ranking as system B, then it is twice as popular when averaged over the individual evaluation criteria.

Relational DBMSs still dominate the market.

DB-Engines analysis also reveals other interesting facts about today's DBMS business. First, for all the talk about NoSQL and other new style DBMS designs, when push comes to shove, relational DBMSs are still what people use. All  other systems combined don't even come close to relational DBMS's 83 percent market share.

Proprietary DBMSs still dominate, but open-source DBMSs continue to gain ground.

The company's numbers also show that proprietary DBMSs still dominate the marketplace. At the same time, open-source DBMSs — such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MariaDB — are gaining on their purely commercial rivals.

So, despite all the hype about big data and all the rest, when it comes right down to it, traditional DBMSs still rule.

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