Maximizing database performance top biz concern

Influx of more and varied data means enterprises need databases that can efficiently process both traditional and unstructured data in real-time to reduce hardware costs and sprawl, analysts note.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Enterprises today are looking for databases that will allow them to better manage the information deluge, which include various forms of data, to maximize usage and cut down on hardware sprawl as well as be able to access the data in a timely manner, analysts note.

Madan Sheina, lead analyst for information management technologies at Ovum, said the most pressing problem companies face with managing their databases currently is the volume, variety and velocity of data they have to handle.

He noted that there is more data being generated than ever, and more types of data beyond the traditional structured data such as those from social media, mobile and sensors, are being stored in corporate databases. These add to the complexity of how data can be managed and manipulated, the analyst said.

There are also more transactional and analytic queries being posed by operational users and decision-makers, which adds to the stress on existing database infrastructure, Sheina pointed out.

Data generated from social media, mobile technologies, cloud computing and unified communications (UC) represent new types of content and different use cases, which therefore require new database systems that function differently from processing solely transactional data, added Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research.

Furthermore, the I/O (input/output) times required for "real-time and right-time" transactions are limited on traditional databases presently, he said.

"Fast access requires in-memory databases. Unfortunately, the older databases are not optimized for this. Add [in] the new content that is unstructured data, and you get a mess."

Wang also identified the underutilization of existing databases, due to "shelfware", as another issue companies are facing. Shelfware--an industry slang to describe software that a company acquires but never use--usually refers to the purchase of accompanying database and other hardware. This could be due to the "oppressive contracts" that are foisted on companies by IT vendors, he noted.

Couple this with the fact many enterprises only use their databases as a storage facility and not make use of any advanced relational data features for computing, the end result is a lot of database capacity left unused, the analyst noted.

Ultimately, these issues mean that total cost of ownership (TCO) would be something enterprises will be looking to address, said Sheina. They will be trying to reduce database costs for both operational and analytical business needs, he explained.

Wang added that there is an incentive for companies to shift to alternatives such as more independent, open source database options or in-memory-based products.

SAP faces uphill battle to carve database niche
Besides commenting on the database needs of enterprise customers, the analysts also said German software maker SAP's decision to enter the database software fray makes business sense, but it will face challenges in dislodging industry incumbents.

Wang said SAP's decision is essentially to reduce its dependency on IT vendor Oracle, noting that it generates an estimated US$1 billion sales in database for its rival each year. By offering its own database offering, SAP will gain efficiencies for its customers in the long run, he stated.

"With Sybase and Hana, they can get there in the next 18 to 24 months. To embed this fully in their applications, however, will take at least 3 to 5 years," he added.

Sheina, however, noted that new entrants will likely face challenges to make inroads because the market has not really matured over the last five years, and existing players are already entrenched in their positions.

Identifying the top three players as Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft, he said: "The incumbent vendors are still growing and, to date, a handful of these vendors still command over 75 percent of the market and the investments made by enterprises."

Still, he did say that SAP is "fortunate to not be starting from ground zero" and can leverage the installed Sybase customer base. To succeed, though, the German company will need to further integrate its Sybase and Hana technologies. The latter, in particular is "off to a flying start" but will take time to mature since it's a relatively new product and unproven in many environments, he stated.

Julie Lockner, senior analyst and vice-president of data management at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), agreed that it will be challenging for any new player to make an impact due to the amount of effort needed to displace an incumbent database vendor technology.

"The trick for SAP will be to make sure it has a clear go-to-market message--and a technology stack that delivers on what it promises," she said.

In a statement to ZDNet Asia, SAP Asia-Pacific and Japan's head of technology and innovation, Simon Dale, reiterated that the company is "absolutely committed to being a major database player". With its Sybase acquisition and Hana in-memory appliance, he said the company has a strong value proposition to provide better integration with its applications to database customers as well as help them improve performance reduce their TCO.

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