Oracle extends lead over IBM in database market

IBM's market share falls slightly in new statistics

Despite fast growth by Microsoft's SQL Server, Oracle kept building on its dominance of the database market last year, according to preliminary figures released yesterday by IDC.

Oracle's database generated US$7.3 billion in sales in 2006, giving the vendor 44.4% of the US$16.5 billion global market. "Oracle continued to glide along in first place, bolstered by apparently broad acceptance of the 10g R2 release and the success of key options," IDC analyst Carl Olofson wrote in a report.

IBM, primarily through its DB2 database, generated US$3.5 billion in sales. While that was up 11.9% from 2005, IBM failed to keep pace with Oracle's 14.7% growth, which also outpaced the overall market's 14.3% rate of year-over-year growth. IBM's share fell slightly, from 21.6% in 2005 to 21.2% last year.

Third-place Microsoft enjoyed the fastest rate of growth, 25%, giving it a total of US$3.1 billion in sales. It held 18.6% of the market at year's end.

Fourth-place Sybase and fifth-place NCR Teradata, which NCR announced in January would be spun off as an independent company, also grew, albeit at a pace slower than the market as a whole.

Vendors in IDC's 'other' categories — which include MySQL, PostGreSQL and Ingres — rang up US$1.6 billion in sales last year but saw their collective revenue share of the market fall from 10.7%to 9.9%.

IDC noted the revenue figures include core products but not the features vendors sell as separate options. That can make apples-to-apples comparisons difficult. Also, IDC did not break out maintenance and subscription revenue, which accounts for the "substantial majority" of sales. High maintenance and subscription revenue can mask the growth rate in database license sales by each vendor, which in turn can boost maintenance and subscription revenues in future years.

For Mark Townsend, Oracle's vice president of database product management, it's not bragging when your firm's database revenue tops your three nearest competitors. "IBM is slowly fading from the picture. Oracle and Microsoft are taking share from DB2," he said. As for MySQL — which, according to a survey by the International Oracle Users Group, is used by a third of Oracle customers — Townsend dismissed the threat.

"It's like comparing the free town bicycle in the park to a car that someone pays for," he said. "MySQL is not playing in the same league as commercial databases. While I do see a lot of free MySQL around, I think they replace Microsoft Access more than anything else. I think MySQL will stay in the 'other' category for quite awhile."

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