Web 2.0 fuels open-source database boom

Forrester has found that databases such as MySQL and PostgreSQL are gaining momentum through new markets, despite lack of movement away from existing proprietary installations

The market for open-source databases is booming due to new workloads such as RFID projects, rich web applications and small portals, despite the unwillingness of enterprises to replace their Oracle, DB2 or SQL Server systems with open source, according to new figures from Forrester Research.

These new uses have expanded the open-source database market to $850m (£429m) this year, a figure Forrester sees rising to $1.2bn by 2010. The revenue figures include income from training, technical support, consulting or a commercial licence for the database.

The study found the market is led by MySQL — bought by Sun in February for $1bn, more than the total size of the market — with other popular choices including Ingres, Oracle-owned BerkeleyDB, PostgreSQL, which forms the basis for commercial systems from EnterpriseDB and Greenplum, and Apache's Derby project.

Forrester database analyst Noel Yuhanna said open-source databases can now meet about 80 percent of existing business application needs.

"Open-source databases have come a long way in delivering reliable, robust and secure database platforms," wrote Yuhanna in the Forrester market update, released last week.

He said deployments examined by Forrester have demonstrated the level of maturity now attained by open source.

"Some customers are running mission-critical transactional deployments with over 3TB of data on open-source databases, while others are running very large workloads that support hundreds and thousands of concurrent users," he wrote.

The research found that open-source users are avoiding replacing existing proprietary systems because of the cost of migration and technical challenges in changing from proprietary SQL extensions and application programming interfaces (APIs).

While tools now exist to ease the technical side of a migration, these are only capable of handling about four-fifths of the work, the rest of which must be done manually, Yuhanna noted.

The effort of rewriting stored procedures, applications and queries also adds to the complexity of migration, he wrote.

Nonetheless, Forrester found many companies are staying away from proprietary vendors for new projects, largely in order to avoid licence fees, and or are going with open source for particular applications such as development and testing environments.