By Stu Robarts

Database management software: top four on the market

Introduction and Oracle

In an increasingly digital world, businesses are creating more and more data. This data can be used to provide insights into how a business is being run and what can be done to improve it. Harnessing and understanding the data that is produced can give businesses a competitive edge and can provide a depth of market knowledge that may not have been previously possible.

In order to capture and use the data that a business produces, it is necessary to have the right tools in place. A database management system (DBMS) is a piece of software or a platform that is designed to help a business maximise the value of the data to which it has access.

A business’s DBMS allows it to pull in data from different sources, store the data, sort and catalogue it, have users or other pieces of software “query” the data to find out what snapshots or trends it shows and, if they wish, extract the data for use elsewhere.

There are a huge number of DBMS providers and each product has its own strengths. When choosing a DBMS to use, it is important that a business recognises what its own specific needs are and matches them up with what a DBMS can provide.

Even then, it can still be difficult to navigate the ocean of possible solutions. Fortunately, there is a great deal of analysis of database providers and their products.

Gartner, in particular, offers some clear and insightful analysis concerning the database market. It’s annual “Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems” looks at the evolving operational DBMS market and segments it by those who are leaders in the market, those who are challenging, those who are visionaries and those who are niche players. Providers are judged on the completeness of their vision and their ability to execute it.

This article looks at the four leading DBMS providers in the Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems” and gives an overview of each. It is meant as a starting point from which you can make a decision on which DBMS is best for your business, but there are other providers available that may be well suited to your business.

Oracle Database

Oracle is a major technology business with a wide range of products and services to offer. Originally, however, it was primarily a producer of database software and that remains its core business. Indeed, such is Oracle’s significance in the database software market that Gartner named it the number one provider of DBMS software in 2013. It holds a larger revenue share of the market than its four closest competitors combined and leads the revenue share of its closest competitor by 28%.

Oracle database

Gartner praises Oracle’s broad offering, saying that it is the broadest in the market, as well as its good functionality and solid availability. It suggests that Oracle could improve the public perception of its vision, meaning that consumers are sometimes left to “make assumptions about road maps”. It also raises concerns about the extent of Oracle’s proprietary features and the value for money of its offerings.

Oracle’s DBMS is called Oracle Database and the most recent version of the platform is called Oracle Database 12c. It aims to enable users to make more efficient use of their IT resources and has a multi-tenant architecture that allows users to deploy and manage private database clouds.

It is available in three editions. Oracle Database Express Edition is for use on one computer with a maximum database size of 11GB. Standard Edition One and Standard Edition offer server-installed options for use in small and mid-sized enterprises, respectively.

Oracle Database Enterprise Edition, meanwhile, allows for an unlimited number of databases and unlimited database sizes. Users can take advantage of Data Warehousing, High Availability, Storage Management and Big Data architecture’s for 12c depending on the needs of their organisation.

In addition, Oracle says that the Enterprise edition can efficiently manage more data, lower storage costs, improve database performance and it’s highly secure.

Microsoft, IBM and SAP

Microsoft SQL Server

SQL Server is Microsoft’s database offering. It is one of four DBMS platforms that sits in the leaders segment of Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems”. Gartner cites its strengths as its market vision and capabilities, competitiveness within the DBMS market, its performance and the support offered. The areas which are cautioned about are a lack of appliances and pricing.

Microsoft SQL Server

SQL Server can be managed on premise, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment. Amongst the platform’s benefits, according to Microsoft, are “breakthrough, in-memory performance” with an average of a 10x gain for transaction processing with existing hardware and over 100x gain for data warehousing.

The platform is also said to offer high levels of availability and scalability of up to 640 logical processors for physical processing or up to 64 logical processors for virtual machines.

In addition to its performance and deployment benefits, SQL Server is also recognised for its security credentials. Last year, the platform was shown to have been the least vulnerable database for five years in a row by the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s Comprehensive Vulnerability Database.


IBM software joins Oracle and Microsoft’s offerings in the leaders segment of Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems” with its DB2 and Informix platforms. Gartner praises IBM for the broad functionality it provides, its hardware integration and global presence. It cautions against the provider’s complexity and pricing, its confusing branding and poor sales execution with “very aggressive competitor marketing.”

IBM database

For users of its products, IBM promises industry-leading performance across multiple workloads, whilst providing reduced administration, storage, development and server costs. DB2 focuses on scalability and reliability and can be used with Linux, UNIX, Windows and z/OS operating systems.

The Informix database server, meanwhile, offers real-time analytics, fast always-on transactions, sensor data management and NoSQL capability.


SAP is the final provider in the leaders segment of Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems”. Gartner praises its vision leadership, strong DBMS offerings and the performance of those offerings. It urges caution regarding the company’s marketing communications, the lack of skills available in the market for its DBMS products and its poor provision of support.

SAP database

SAP is another provider with multiple database offerings, including HANA and Sybase, which it acquired in 2010.

According to IBM, HANA allows users to analyse data in real-time, processing both operational and analytical data in a single in-memory database. It promises near-zero latency, built-in predictive analytics and the ability to create custom applications.

Sybase, meanwhile, is targeted for use in financial markets and focuses on allowing users to combine real-time data capture, historical analytics, and risk management. It promises support for the entire trading lifecycle, along with the ability to develop, test and execute risk management and trading processes and analytics for market data.