This is the second of a five-part series on database management system choices. For the first post in the series, please click here.
For the most part, relational database management systems divide into four major classes:
- High-end OLTP (OnLine Transaction Processing) relational DBMS. Oracle is the flagship for this category, followed by DB2.
- Specialty data warehouse DBMS. Teradata is the leader here, followed by Netezza, DATAllegro, ParAccel, Vertica, Infobright, Greenplum, Kognitio, Sybase IQ, and a host of others.
- Mid-range relational database management systems. Most of the contenders here fall into one or more of three categories: Open-source-based relational DBMS (MySQL, PostgreSQL, EnterpriseDB); reseller-focused relational DBMS (Progress OpenEdge, Pervasive PSQL); or crippled “editions” of high-end systems. Microsoft SQL Server was once a clear mid-range system, but now is better classified as high-end OLTP.
- Embedded relational database management systems. The leader of this category is Sybase’s SQL Anywhere. Also significant are memory-centric products Oracle TimesTen and solidDB.
High-end OLTP relational database management systems are complex and mature products, differentiated mainly on reliability, availability, performance, scalability, security, license cost, maintenance cost, programming/administration cost, and datatype support. All except the last point can be evaluated pretty effectively on an outside-in basis. That is, is suffices to look at proven results, without worrying a whole lot about architecture or product futures. Just remember that a lot of the high-end features come through extra-cost add-ins, which need to be included in any evaluation.
That said — most evaluations of high-end OLTP RDBMS are pretty moot anyway. Large enterprises usually have one favored vendor, who provides a significant quantity discount on license and maintenance costs. Using the OLTP RDBMS you already have also usually leads to significant efficiencies in administration expense. Thus, the high-end OLTP is the one part of the DBMS market that truly is as mature as conventional wisdom would have us believe – at least, that is, until something like H-Store comes to fruition.
Even so, high-end relational OLTP DBMS vendors face two major competitive challenges, which are taking significant share of new applications within those vendors’ installed bases. For more about those, please see the next two posts in this series.
The complete series
- Part 1: Database management system choices – overview
- Part 2: Database management system choices – 4 categories of relational
- Part 3: Database management system choices – relational data warehouse
- Part 4: Database management system choices – mid-range-relational
- Part 5: Database management system choices – beyond relational