IBM tops database market, Oracle leads in Linux

Oracle Corp. may no longer lead the overall market for relational database management systems (RDBMS) sales, but it is the undisputed master in the Linux category, showing that its marketing and development muscle is paying off.

Those are among the findings reported Wednesday by consulting firm Gartner Inc., which released its 2003 survey of the RDBMS market. The findings show that annual database sales rose in value by just over 5 percent last year, from US$6.7 billion in 2002 to almost $7.1 billion. That rise followed a decline between 2001 and 2002 of 6 percent.

Despite the apparent upswing, Gartner claimed that much of that growth was due to changing currency rates rather than increased demand.

IBM Corp. for the second year in a row was the overall leader in RDBMS sales, with 35 percent of the marketplace and $2.5 billion in sales, up 5 percent from 2002. Most of that growth came from DB2 sales on its iSeries and zSeries hardware platforms.

Oracle held second place, with 32.6 percent of the market and roughly $2.3 billion in sales, up 2.4 percent from 2002.

No. 3, with 19 percent of the RDBMS market, was Microsoft Corp., whose sales rose from $1.1 billion in 2002 to $1.3 billion last year, according to Gartner. Despite the delay of its next-generation Yukon database, the company still achieved 11 percent growth year over year.

Breaking down the numbers in more detail, Gartner analyst Colleen Graham pointed to the growth of Linux as the most significant development, with sales jumping from $116 million in 2002 to $299 million in 2003. The lion's share of those sales went to Oracle, which generated $206 million in revenue last year, up from $45 million.

"We think Oracle is cannibalizing its Unix sales," Graham said. "We saw an 8 percent decline in Oracle as leader of the Unix market. They still own a majority of the market, but that's a fairly serious decline."

Moreover, she pointed out that much of that apparent growth is because most customers are purchasing the company's 9i RAC clustering feature, which adds 50 percent to the cost of the Linux database license.