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Who Leads the RDBMS Pack?
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Over the past few months, several research firms released new database market share results indicating continuing shifts in the RDBMS field.  Oracle, the long-time market leader, finds itself facing stiff competition from Microsoft and IBM and is reacting swiftly to these threatening powers.  Who really leads the database market?  This might be a simple question, but there's really not a simple answer.  The results depend upon who you ask and how you phrase the question. 

Oracle Retains the Overall Edge

According to most reports, Oracle Corporation's database products maintained a small lead in total RDBMS market share.  According to the Gartner Group, Oracle captured 33.8% of the database market last year, up from 31.4% the previous year.  The next closest competitor was IBM which maintained a steady 30% portion of total database sales.  Microsoft's SQL Server product cornered 13.9% of the market, mainly due to the fact that SQL Server is only available on Windows-based systems while the other two vendors cater to a variety of platforms.

Gartner Group's reptuation for unbiased analysis lends credence to these numbers.  However, if you visit the Oracle web site this week, you'll see them posting much bolder numbers from IDC that credit Oracle with 46% of the worldwide database market.  The same study found that IBM and Microsoft earned 23.6% and 6.7% of sales, respectively.  

Microsoft Corners the Windows Market

Microsoft makes no bones about it -- they aggressively target the Windows market and leave Unix and other platforms to Oracle and IBM.  According to the Gartner group, they're doing exceedingly well at their declared goal.  Gartner Group estimates that Microsoft finally surpassed Oracle in total Windows NT database market share during the year 2000 with a slight 38% to 37.2% lead.  This represents a significant shift when compared side-by-side to Oracle's 40.4% to 35.2% lead last year.

Oracle executives shrug off these numbers, attributing them to the fact that Microsoft bundles SQL Server with their Back Office suite therefore artificially inflating their market share.  Microsoft disagrees, arguing (perhaps justifiably) that most people who purchase Back Office intend to use the expensive SQL Server product that is bundled with it.

What's next for Microsoft in the database field?  Who knows!  I'm joined by many industry experts in my prediction that Microsoft will continue to gain market share in the Windows arena.  Their SQL Server product becomes more reliable year after year and is especially appealing to Microsoft network administrators who appreciate the product's familiar brand name and the distinctive Microsoft "look and feel".  

Will Microsoft expand into the Unix database market?  It's not likely, but I'd never rule anything out when the software giant is involved.  They'd face stiff opposition from Unix system administrators who tend to range from those who just don't trust the reliability of products originating in Redmond to those who just outright hate the Microsoft behemoth.

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