Open source databases such as MySQL, Cloudscape and Firebird are still years away from offering a viable, enterprise-ready alternative to existing commercial offerings from the likes of Oracle and IBM, according to Gartner vice-president Donald Feinberg.
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He told delegates at Gartner's Business Intelligence summit in London that it was important to understand the fundamental difference between the community developing open source operating systems and the one involved in developing open source databases.
Although open source operating systems are used widely by organisations to run databases, the development of open source databases is not so advanced.
There are thousands of people contributing code to Linux and the like, but far fewer working on open source database, said Feinberg.
"The community for open source operating systems is entirely different to open source databases."
Feinberg said it could also take as long as 10 years for open source databases to be ready meet the business intelligence datawarehousing needs of enterprises' core systems.
"The capabilities of open source databases are nowhere near the commercial players currently," he said.
Feinberg said it was important for organisations to pay attention to the development of open source databases and said they could be used in small-scale projects such as serving data to a website.
However, he said that for business-critical processes, companies would still need to choose products with full support.
Feinberg also said that Linux offers a viable platform on which to run a database, and many firms are already using it for this. But he said Gartner did not believe the Linux environment was truly enterprise-ready.
In the next three or four years, said Feinberg, the Linux environment should mature to a point where it offers a mainframe-quality alternative to commercial systems such as Unix.
Feinberg said growth in the use of Unix was beginning to slow, and within five years the space was likely to be dominated by Linux and Windows.
"Unix is dead, but the funeral is many years down the line - it could be 20 years away," he said.
SQL Server 2005 still playing catch-up
Microsoft SQL Server 2005 is still two years away from being a real contender in the commercial database market against Oracle and IBM's DB2, according to Gartner.
"By 2008, Microsoft will be a strong contender," said Gartner vice-president Donald Feinberg.
It is three months since Microsoft put out SQL Server 2005, and Feinberg said it would be some time before there was evidence that it could operate effectively in a full-blown datawarehouse environment.
But he said SQL Server 2005 was already operating well for users with smaller amounts of data and Gartner believes it has the potential to become a viable alternative in the database marketplace.