Why Oracle is losing the Database Race

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When you think of databases, the first thing that comes to mind is Oracle or IBM. Oracle has been ruling the database world for decades now, and it has been able to acquire tonnes of applications that use its databases. However, that’s changing now, and if you didn’t know already, you might be surprised to know that Oracle is losing the database race.

Oracle = Goliath

Oracle was and still is ranked number one among databases, owing to its legacy in the database ballpark.

DBMS chart

Source – DB Engines


The main reason why Oracle has managed to hold its position is because of lock-in, a CIO’s worst nightmare. Migrating data that’s accumulated over the years is not a walk in the park and usually has top management flinching every time it’s mentioned. Another reason is because Oracle is known to be aggressive when it comes to maintaining and enforcing licensing terms. You won’t be surprised to find Oracle ‘agents’ at the doorstep of your organisation, slapping you with a big fine for non-compliance!

Oracle != Goliath for everyone

You might wonder whether even the biggies are in the same position, locked-in with Oracle. Well, the Amazons and Salesforces of the world have quietly moved away from lock-in hell and have their applications now running on open-source projects. In fact, Salesforce plans to be completely free of Oracle databases by 2023 and has even codenamed this project “Sayonara”. I wonder what inspired the name!

Enter the “Davids” of Databases

While Oracle’s databases have been declining, alternatives like SQL Server and PostgreSQL have been steadily growing.

DB engines ranking of Oracle

SQL Server has been doing it in leaps and bounds, with a growth rate of over 30%.

DB engine's ranking

DB Engines ranking

Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud based databases have seen close to 10x growth. While one might think that all Cloud solutions would have dominated the database world, databases like Google Cloud SQL and IBM Cognos have been suffering very slow to no growth as the question of lock-in arises again, only this time with a cloud vendor.

Popularity of Cloud based DBMS

MongoDB has been another shining star in the database race. Several large organisations like HSBC, Adobe, Ebay, Forbes and MTV have adopted MongoDB as their database solution.

Newer organisations have been resorting to adopt these databases instead to looking to Oracle. However, it’s not really eating into Oracle’s existing market, at least not yet.

Is 18c Oracle’s silver bullet?

Oracle bragged a lot about 18c, last year, positioning it as a database that needs little to no human interference thanks to its ground-breaking machine learning; one that operates at less than 30 minutes of downtime a year and many more features.

Does this make Microsoft and Amazon break into a sweat? Hell no! Although Oracle has strategically positioned 18c as a database that lowers operational cost by cutting down on the human element, it still is quite expensive when compared to its competitors – they haven’t dropped their price one bit. Moreover, it can’t really automate “everything” and there’s always a need for a human administrator – not really convincing enough. Quite naturally customers will be drawn towards competition.

In the end, the way I look at it, Oracle already had a head start and is now inches from the elusive finish line, probably sniggering away at all the customers that it has on a leash. All while cloud databases are slowly catching up and will soon be leaving Oracle in a heap of dirt. Reminds me of that fable mum used to read to me…what’s it called…The hare and the tortoise.

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