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How Real Is The Open Source Database Fever? 315

Posted by timothy
from the something-to-sell-you dept.
J. Misael G. points out a NewsForge article on recent moves by some database vendors to loudly release (some of) their products as open source, asking the vital question "How much open source beer are these newcomers bringing to the database bash, or are they simply coming in and asking where the cups are?" (Slashdot and NewsForge are both part of OSTG.)
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How Real Is The Open Source Database Fever?

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  • by SIGALRM (784769) * on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:34PM (#11160153) Journal
    Oracle Vice President of Technology Marketing Robert Shimp, whose company is among the only database providers not trending toward open source in some way, was critical of some open source moves by database makers
    Of course he would say that--but the typical consumer interested in F/OSS databases are definitely not the handful of big companies that Oracle sends a team of slick salesmen to do 4 months of PowerPoint just to get one > $100,000 sale. Of what use is the "Oracle model" to the rest of us?

    Mr. Shimp, get a clue... we're simply not going to buy your pitch without looking at other decent (free!) alternatives.
    • by dsplat (73054) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:43PM (#11160273)
      He was also critical of "orphanware". While there are reasons to be critical of orphanware announced as if it is a live project, it has some benefits. It is certainly possible for a product to reach a point in its lifecycle at which its residual value to its owner is small, or even negative if support is continued. However, at the same time, it may still be valuable to a small group of customers. Releasing it as open source at that point permits customers to make other arrangements for bug fixes and even new features.

      Let's not pretend that orphanware is something that it's not. Nonetheless, there are still reasons to be pleased to see it.
    • by tanguyr (468371) <tanguyr+slashdot@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:44PM (#11160287) Homepage
      I think most "typical" Oracle customers are much less sticker-price sensitive than you'd think, since they realize that the cost of developers and DBAs you need to actually do something with your shiny new DB usually far outweighs the cost of the software. If anything, Oracle wins a lot of business in the db world just like Microsoft wins a lot of business in the productivity suite world: most corporate customers think "Database" = "Oracle" and never really go out there to investigate the alternatives.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:59PM (#11160445)
        There's also the fact that Oracle has a real, proven track record of reliability and scaliblity. There are bunches of companies that run huge Oracle databases on mainframe-supercomptuer hardware that can't ever be down, not even for a minute, and have done so for years.

        Can something like MySQL do the same? Well, I honestly don't know. However if you are in a position where there will be extreme losses from an outage, you don't want to be the one to test and maybe find out that no, indeed it can't.
        • There's also the fact that Oracle has a real, proven track record of reliability and scaliblity. There are bunches of companies that run huge Oracle databases on mainframe-supercomptuer hardware that can't ever be down, not even for a minute, and have done so for years.

          Can something like MySQL do the same? Well, I honestly don't know. However if you are in a position where there will be extreme losses from an outage, you don't want to be the one to test and maybe find out that no, indeed it can't.


          Ora
        • by tanguyr (468371) <tanguyr+slashdot@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @01:15PM (#11160609) Homepage
          It's certainly true that Oracle can sell into the corporate environment using arguments like this (company X uses Oracle to manage a three terrabyte database! And they only accept one picosecond of downtime per decade otherwise all the DBAs get disembowled with a spoon!) - mostly in the hopes of triggering some mid level IT manager's penis envy. In practise, reliability is more a function of how good your people are than what products you use - guru + MySql > idiot + Oracle any day of the week, for 99 out of 100 common cases.

          This isn't Oracle bashing btw: i've got MySql installed on my workstation because all the demo apps seem to use it, but i work on Oracle - TOAD is *always* open - and i've always said that if it could cook i'd marry it.
          • Apples and Oranges (Score:2, Insightful)

            by kryonD (163018)
            "guru + MySql > idiot + Oracle any day of the week, for 99 out of 100 common cases"

            If you were talking about almost any other pairing of apps, you would be correct. However, I can pretty confidently say that there's no way you could even come up with 100 data management scenarios where both Oracle and MySQL would be appropriate. I'd be impressed if you could even come up with 10.

            Can you use Oracle for nickle and dime stuff like small business customer management or a bug tarcking system? Yes, but w
            • Can you use Oracle for nickle and dime stuff like small business customer management or a bug tarcking system? Yes, but why in God's green earth would anyone ever want to go through that expense and learning curve?

              The usual answer is "because you're already using Oracle for something/everything else". The other day i created a schema with one table - not my proudest moment - because creating a pissant schema on an existing instance is still easier than installing a new product (and that's without talking
        • by arkanes (521690) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {senakra}> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @01:24PM (#11160731) Homepage
          MySQL absolutely cannot compete in the market where Oracle shines. However, Oracle is used in a lot of places you don't need it. On the other hand, once you've spent a million dollars on an Oracle installation you may as well use it for everything.

          Disclaimer: I'm a MySQL hater and wouldn't recommend it in any circumstance. Postgresql on the other hand is fantastic and should get a lot more love than it does. It still can't compare to Oracle in the huge installations, but it can certainly replace Oracle in all sorts of common usage.

          • There is a mass of space where a MySQL and PostgreSQL are too small or lack required features but revenues simply don't justify an Oracle database. Several of my clients are running into exactly this problem as we speak so I'm spending a lot of time looking into these newly open sourced offerings.
        • All my foes are spelling or grammar Nazis.

          "nazi" should be lower-case, since you're using it as a generic noun and not a proper noun. (Spelling or grammar Nazis would be german-language, anyway.)

        • There's also the fact that Oracle has a real, proven track record of reliability and scaliblity.

          And they have good documentation and support...but their installation software is a piece of shit. The only people I ever knew to really get Oracle up and running smoothly were admins with years of Oracle experience.

          • but i'd never dream of trying to set it up and run it myself - proper DBA support costs more than any database software and it is worth it.

            Mysql and postgres are great little databases for non-critical projects, but a well admined oracle system is hard to top.

            As others have pointed out, the sticker price of oracle is way less than the cost of the people to make it fly.
        • Oracle is great for Enterprise applications, but it's totally overkill for many applications. Installing it is a royal pain in the ass.

          Why do I need three CDs and tweak the operating system just to install the stupid Oracle client?

          Can something like MySQL do the same?

          Some big websites are starting to use MySQL. Slashdot for one, and Netflix is using MySQL for some of their newer applications, including their new social-networking service.
        • by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gmail . c om> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @02:46PM (#11161598) Homepage Journal
          MySQL is not really designed to do anything more heavyweight than lightweight content management (a SQL interface for NFS basically). It has data integrity issues which IMO should even rule it out of e-Commerce altogether or anything else where accuracy of information matters.

          THese include:

          0000-00-00 is a valid date in MySQL

          NUMERIC types are agregated as floats which can lead to round-off errors.

          Numbers are truncated if too large to be stored
          (Strings are also truncated in violation of SQL standards, but this is not as severe as numbers for obvious accounting reasons).

          If MySQL is unable to create an Innodb table, it may create a myisam one instead without raising an error. This creates a situation where you cannot be sure that your transactions are really being rolled back everywhere the application thinks they are rolling them back........

          Now, PostgreSQL has no data integrity issues that I am aware of, and the few areas where it handles things in non-standard ways are clearly documented, and the core developers place a huge amount of thought into how to do things right. The level of professionalism in this project is truly amazing.

          Firebird is nice too, but PostgreSQL has fewer limitations. These two databases are building the track record you speak of and they will continue to do so. Now with Slony-I, PostgreSQL has a decent, robust, and open source replication solution, I will expect continued interest in this area.

          Oracle still has a few enterprise features that most of the open source databases lack-- table partitioning, grid computing (but investigate backplane if this interests you), and a few other options. However, on the down side:

          VARCHAR's store NULL's as empty strings (which are not the same thing)(!!!)

          PostgreSQL has much more flexibility in development due to the larger number of supported languages for stored procedures.

          $$$

          Licensing headaches....

          Disclaimer: My company (http://www.metatrontech.com) provides solutions for MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Firebird. We will work with Oracle and SQL Server but it is not as much our things since we have an open source focus. We have been running PostgreSQL extensively and have only had problems due to hardware failure.
    • Of course he would say that--but the typical consumer interested in F/OSS databases are definitely not the handful of big companies that Oracle sends a team of slick salesmen to do 4 months of PowerPoint just to get one > $100,000 sale. Of what use is the "Oracle model" to the rest of us?

      One of the areas Oracle shines is the developer support. While not free as in speech, they already make their product free as in beer for the folks doing development work. Granted, you pay the piper when you move to production land, but one of the strong points for the OSS offerings is not having to hork about with licensing on the dev side. I know I have used Tomcat and Jboss on the dev side while a customer noodles through the decision to get BEA or IBM kit.

      I'd say Oracle might be in a world of hurt on the lower end database solutions. Light weight stuff that might have required a 100k license in production land and needed the sophistication of a ten column MS Access database is numbered. Many of the OSS solutions are 'good enough' for department scale use. An interesting move on IBM's side was donating Cloudscape (now Apache Derby). They salted the field for the lower end stuff, but were clever in they used DB2's JDBC connector. Build a simple app, find out it grows into the enterprise, and you have the option to pay the same mad cash as Oracle for the full featured solution....

    • Of course he would say that--but the typical consumer interested in F/OSS databases are definitely not the handful of big companies that Oracle sends a team of slick salesmen to do 4 months of PowerPoint just to get one > $100,000 sale. Of what use is the "Oracle model" to the rest of us?

      $100,000 is chump change. Entry-level real estate agents, fresh from passing the licensing exam, turn up their noses at those gigs.

      A team of slick salesmen and 4 months of PowerPoint start at around $10,000,000, alt

    • I've personally been at a relatively small company where we got a ~$100,000 Oracle database after one Oracle salesman showed up to talk to the developers for an afternoon. If you have a whole lot of data going through your database (millions of rows added/day), you want a big server, and Oracle is the right thing to make good use of it. Any company that's a retail chain or providing services to one is going to have this order of data, which is plenty of business for Oracle.

      I think Oracle is right in saying
  • Why the disclaimer? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mOoZik (698544)
    I'm curious why some submissions carry the disclaimer, "Slashdot and NewsForge are both part of OSTG." Can anyone shed some light on this? Just curious. :)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:37PM (#11160193)
      It's to make it clear that the relationship exists, and allows you to consider if there may be some sort of conflict of interest. For example, when MSNBC does a story on Microsoft or NBC, they always point out that they're operated as a joint venture between the two.
    • So they let you know exactly were they stand.

      If MSFT's Get the facts campagn came right out andsaid all studies funded by MSFT, and all computers that ran windows were supplied by MSFT would you have a bit more respect for them?

      just a bit more.
    • disclosure (Score:5, Informative)

      by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:48PM (#11160321) Homepage Journal
      The late-1990s media buyouts created so much cross-ownership that every article can contain some hidden corporate bias, stemming from competition/cooperation between parent corporations publishing the story, and the subject of them. When the same corporation is reporting on itself, the story is extremely suspect. The media response has been to favor "full disclosure": mentioning the corporate connection in the story as a disclaimer of "objectivity".

      It's not good enough. People are increasing our acceptance of this conflict of interest the more we see it, rather than rejecting it more as it grows more pervasive and therefore more dangerous. Actual competitive conflicts are necessary to get critical interpretations, not just acknowledgement that interpretations might be selfserving propaganda. At least Slashdot has these discussions of stories, in which dissent can be communicated. My favorite system was the P2P "Third Voice", a browser plugin which let the user attach popup sticky notes to any web page, stored in a DB the plugin checked against the "background" page's URL. That way, P2P commentary could effortlessly appear right in the context being presented, without requiring cooperation from the provider of the target content. The project folded, but I welcome its return. Only the flexibility, complexity and scale of the public is enough to compensate for the advantages that centralized corporate media has in lying to us.
      • Re:disclosure (Score:3, Interesting)

        by flossie (135232)
        My favorite system was the P2P "Third Voice", a browser plugin which let the user attach popup sticky notes to any web page ... The project folded, but I welcome its return. Only the flexibility, complexity and scale of the public is enough to compensate for the advantages that centralized corporate media has in lying to us.

        In that case, you might be interested in the opine-it [mozilla.org] extension for Firefox.

    • because to me anyway, it is considered inbreeding when you link to yourself or an affiliate for a news story. something like "here's another site's take on it, if you don't like ours. oh yeah we're the same company as them."

      personally i don't like it at all. I especially hate it when slashdot links to itself about things that have happened in the past. other sites do it, and it hate it when they do it too. if you are in the habit of reading just one site, or watching just one news station for all your
  • by suso (153703) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:36PM (#11160180) Homepage Journal
    I think a lot of it is PR. If you take a look at a lot of the advertisements that include the words open source, they use it like a buzzword. It gives me a kinda woozy feeling that I don't like.
  • codekeg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:39PM (#11160219) Homepage Journal
    I'm not as interested in their Open Source beer. I want more of their Open Source speech - not just all the marketing hype we can eat, but shareable code, code, code. I want Postgres transactions in MySQL APIs. I want Oracle's scheduler in Tomcat's JVM. I want to pay them for tech support, so I can get my FrankenBase to work, making me rich, and everyone else wise. Free the source, Larry!
    • Please explain, why would Oracle inc pay developers money to release the code that can be used to compete against Oracle inc? Thank you.

      • Because that code can be used to cooperate with Oracle, Inc. Please explain why Oracle is different from other successful companies that grow their business, reduce their costs, and connect tighter with their customers. Thank you.
  • It's sexy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by confusion (14388) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:40PM (#11160234) Homepage
    Being associated with OSS and Linux is sexy right now. We're seeing this done in droves - Sun with Solaris, SAP DB, Nokia replacing IPSO with Linux, etc. It's the in thing to do right now.

    I don't see how it is going to pan out in the long term for some of these companies, though.

    Jerry http://www.syslog.org/ [syslog.org]

    • That's true. I was a little surprised to see this article focusing on databases, because you see this sort of thing across the board in the industry right now. BEA launched an open source framework with the Apache Group; Novell is open sourcing bits and pieces and pushing a strong Linux message (while still banking on its proprietary products); even Microsoft is quick to tell you that its source code is available (for a price, and for whatever it's worth). I actually wrote an article about this [infoworld.com] for InfoWorl
    • Monster lists about 600 jobs for "open source", mostly Java. Mostly web content management.
  • who keep telling me, that they want their commercial applications re-written with an open source database backend like mysql. I never have the heart to tell them that unless they are actually are releasing the source code for their apps, that they need to purchase a commercial licence [mysql.com]
    • Release it... Post a public notice in a church bulletin or free newspaper and offer to share the source code via postal mail for $0.05/page
    • I don't think that's the case. It's only if you bundle mysql with an application.

      I am prepared to stand corrected, but IIRC MySQL can be used on an in-house database with no additional license.

      Saying that, giving something back (buying a license) helps them to keep developing it, and it's well priced.

      • Yep. If you bundle MySQL with a commercial app you have to pay for internal use you are good to go.
        At least that is the way I read it.
    • Or you can use postgres and distribute it however you like.
    • Quit spreading FUD (Score:2, Informative)

      by deacon brown (733444)
      Just spoke to a helpful young man (Matt) at MySQL

      If you have any questions on MySQL licensing, feel free to contact us: USA and Canada: + 1-425-743-5635

      Commercial license is NOT required for in-house (written and distributed) app running on one server. If we replicate to another server for web access, then we would need a commercial license.

      Many small office I.T. managers may now breathe a small sigh of relief, or begin investigating http://www.postgresql.org/ [postgresql.org]

  • F/OSS Databases (Score:5, Informative)

    by I8TheWorm (645702) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:44PM (#11160285) Journal
    Other than the obvious mySQL and PostgreSQL, I have tried two others... CA's Ingres [ca.com] and IBM's Cloudscape [devx.com] (which is an embedded DB).

    Ingres was originally intended to compete with the likes of Oracle and MS SQL Server, but never had the power or client base. OpenSourcing Ingres looks like CA's attempt to beef up both in one shot. It's not a GPL license, just a chance to peek at the source and maybe help out. The interface that ships is very much like Oracle's.

    Cloudscape is nice, but not even as powerful as PostgreSQL.

    I think there is a huge market still untapped for open source DB's... especially RDBMS, but alas, large companies are (of course) slow to adopt.
    • Ingres was originally intended to compete with the likes of Oracle and MS SQL Server, but never had the power or client base. OpenSourcing Ingres looks like CA's attempt to beef up both in one shot.

      There's another aspect of this, too. Believe it or not, CA is interested not just in the community contributions to Ingres, but also the free beer aspect. Why? Because CA is moving toward a model of providing business integration services and a suite of enterprise application and network management software to

  • The fact that even small companies are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for a SQL database solution just serves to underscrore the disconnect between business managers and information technology divisions. Business managers actually believe they need to spend these large sums to ensure data security and integriy. More so than in any other area of IT purchasing, money spent on DB is totally out of synch with the real underlying cost-benefit equation. These prices were justified back in the
    • I agree with most of what you said. However, the OSS DB's don't offer higher end options such as clustering, distributed transactions, etc... While there are companies that really don't need clustering and simple data redundancy, a much larger actually do for disaster recovery, failover, etc.. Add in the cheaper cost of finding (and likely employing) an MS SQL Server expert over a PostgreSQL expert, and companies with vast data farms probably save money over the long haul going with a SQL Server or Oracl
      • However, the OSS DB's don't offer higher end options such as clustering, distributed transactions, etc... While there are companies that really don't need clustering and simple data redundancy, a much larger actually do for disaster recovery, failover, etc..

        Postgres and mysql both support replication and failover. Neither supports distributed transactions, but if you're just interested in disaster recovery and failover then you're covered.

        It'd be stupid to use a DB for live high-value applications that
    • > With today's hardware, virtually any credible SQL Engine code-base would run the largest corporation.

      ok, sure. You throw $2m at mysql and maybe it can provide the performance of $100k of Oracle or DB2: in running large decision-support queries.

      And note: before you say that nobody needs these, keep in mind that most robust operational applications today include some business intelligence/DSS. It's mainstream stuff, and the hotting-selling component that Siebel (CRM) sells today. But mysql/postgresq
  • "Does it really matter to end users?"

    The more the merrier. Sure as an IT house looking at all the numerous products out there, will take significantly more time. The end result will be more choice to the consumer than there was before.

  • by tcopeland (32225) * <tom&thomasleecopeland,com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:49PM (#11160329) Homepage
    From the article:

    > PostgreSQL has a much richer feature set but
    > has scalability problems and doesn't have
    > a company behind it providing
    > enterprise-level support;

    Bah. What about this [postgresql.org]? Lots of companies there, and many of the folks involved are core PostgreSQL developers...
    • Hahaha!

      He said enterprise support, not a group of 10 d00ds that help "develop" postgres.

      Anyway, the "scalability problems" is still unrefuted, and I'd venture to say that needs to be solved before you start claiming "enterprise support".
    • Huh? All companies listed are under about 35 employees, apart from one that a PG developer works at.

      That's hardly a shining example.

      Don't shout at me - I love PG, ever since taking the time to learn it. Kind of like Gentoo.
      • > All companies listed are under about 35 employees

        Why would that be a problem? After all, database support is something a guru can do by himself... it doesn't take an army of level one tech support folks. It's like a compiler support company - just one or two really, really smart people.
        • One guru could support a small company on a database. One guy would not be able to provide enterprise level support for one database.
          Perhaps your definition of enterprise is "a 8 person law firm". Mine, OTOH, is something like a $500M+ public company that could lose thousands of dollars a minute on downtime.
          If that's my thousands of dollars a minute, I certainly wouldn't be stupid enough to only hire one person, much less some wanna be support company.

          Instead, I would hire a company with:

          a plan ( http://w [mysql.com]
          • > One guy would not be able to provide
            > enterprise level support for one database.

            Hm. I guess what I'm envisioning for large companies is that they'd have a couple of full-time DBAs, and they would occasionally bring in a guru for tweaking and tuning.

            That's what I've observed with some large government databases; the DBA did most of the day to day maintenance, but once in a while they'd bring in a guy for a day or two at $200 per hour who would make sure all the configuration/indexes/etc were up to
          • What about airline reservations? Most companies in that field ARE only employing 100 people, running a medium sized database handling a million transactions a day.

            and they typically have 2 or 3 dbas, tops.

            I know, I work at one. :)

            bs walks, money talks.
  • by Otter (3800) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:50PM (#11160346) Journal
    "We think it is good news for users, and we welcome these products to the open source world, Ingres, and the Linux world, Sybase," Mickos said. "We have predicted for some time that this would happen. It validates the MySQL business model. Two years ago, people said MySQL was a toy. Now, apparently everyone wants to be a toy!"

    They said that MySQL sucks...now they're open-source, just like us, so their products must now suck also!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:55PM (#11160396)
    ...where the open source urinal is.
  • by bstadil (7110) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:55PM (#11160403) Homepage
    Do not forget the Oracle mode Firebird based Fyracle [janus-software.com] It is taking on a life of its own, and can be used for a fair amount of Oracle Licenses off-load.

    Based on old Borland Interbase

  • by flossie (135232) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @01:20PM (#11160679) Homepage
    What does it matter if some of the applications are orphanware? Adding code to the commons must be a good thing. No-one is forced to use or develop it, but it is available for anyone who finds it useful.

    <Off-topic rant>the editor of Newsforge really needs to have a word with the author of the article, I say. It is really not necessary to write "so-and-so said" in every single sentence, says me. I say that you only need to mention who said the words when the author/speaker changes. I say that it is very annoying to read that article because of the poor way that it is written.</rant>

  • by johnjaydk (584895) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @01:21PM (#11160699)
    The overlooked fact of this whole discussion is the fact that databases are becomming a commodity. Using object-relationa mapping tools like Hipernate you can completely hide the details of the underlying database from your code. This enables you to use whatever database is on sale this week and even change your mind mid-stream.

    This makes it really easy for open-source databases to step-in since there is no lock-in. Later on if you figure out you need a big honking Oracle/DB2/whatever you can easily change your mind.

    Like Java makes the OS and HW a commodity these tools makes the database a commodity and by definition commodities ends up being really cheap. And it's kind of hard to find cheaper than free ;-)

    My favorite play is to develop on Hypersonic/McKoi and deploy on PostgreSQL. No sweat.

    • Generic OR systems tend to not take advantage of the underlying DB's capabilities, and in any application where spending the money on a real DB makes sense, throwing all of that away by using auto-genereted OR is a shame.

      ODBC was cool, but i think reality has shown that in many cases, changing DB backends just doesn't happen that often. The example you cite, develop in one place and deploy elsewhere, doesn't really seem to have much real world justification, since development SKU's of most DB's are free (
      • alot of what's going on in java is layering/abstraction for layering and abstractions sake.

        The thing that peeves me is that so many of the abstraction frameworks out there (even commercial ones) leave debuggability as an after-thought. One big-name one I saw some people using masked exceptions being thrown with a generic error--they wasted weeks figuring out what the underlying problem was.

        It seems that in zeal for abstraction, people lose sight of transparency. That's why I love UNIX--there's very lit
    • > This makes it really easy for open-source databases to step-in since there is no lock-in.
      > Later on if you figure out you need a big honking Oracle/DB2/whatever you can easily change your mind.

      kinda-sorta:

      what % of the ANSI-92 standard does your tool support? 80%? 85%? and since it probably doesn't support vendor extentions, you're going to be locked into the slowest and lowest-functionality sql.

      and that will make you want to upgrade to a more powerful database (or more hardware).

      however - get
      • Hibernate has totally different SQL translation engines for each database, and does indeed optimize in many cases.

        Hobernate itsn't like DBI or ODBC. When you use Hibernate, you don't "write" SQL. You manipulate objects. When you compile your objects, you generate an object SQL mapping that is RDBMS specific - a hibernate PostgreSQL mapping will not transparantly run on a MySQL system, you have to re-generate it.

        In this way Hibernate is usually very efficient, and still provides for excellent abstraction.
    • This enables you to use whatever database is on sale this week and even change your mind mid-stream.

      I've said this before and doubtless I'll say it again it doesn't work like that in the real world.

      Tell me how your app handles concurrency, if you've thought about it. An application optimized for performance with Sybase style locking will be crippled on Oracle and vice versa. Want to be completely generic? OK, accept that your performance will suck everywhere, and that your end users won't get a fraction
  • by jgerry (14280) * <jason DOT gerry AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @02:01PM (#11161135) Homepage
    Warning: I am an Oracle DBA. I have been working as an Oracle DBA / developer for 10 years.

    I absolutely believe that the open-source database choices out there today (MySQL, PostgreSQL, Sleepycat) are more than adequate for 90% of all development being done, especially the small- and medium-scale stuff. I'm glad that we've moved away from flat-file systems for small-time web work. It has forced developers to understand their data structures, which is a huge step forward for everyone. Developers today have a far greater understanding of their data, and databases in general, than they did 10 years ago. They understand relational models better, they understand abstraction better. That said: there are two things everyone should understand about the way Oracle thinks about databases (and its customers):

    1) Oracle exists solely to serve the top end of the market. They're not really interested in anything else.

    2) If you can afford it, it pays to start with Oracle first. For small installations, it's not as expensive as you think, especially if you forego the support. Why do this? Because if you find out later that you needed a serious database solution and need to make a back-end change from something like MySQL, you are in for a world of pain.

    This is Oracle's bread and butter. I don't expect to be hurting for work for a VERY long time.
    • That's exactly the reason people should stay away from Oracle. Simply because it backs you into the product in a way the conversion is extremely painful and expensive. conversion from MySQL to MS-SQL or a similar SQL complient database is really pretty simple. Oracle is the mongrel out there and should be put to a very public open sourced death.
      • > That's exactly the reason people should stay away from Oracle. Simply because it backs you into the
        > product in a way the conversion is extremely painful and expensive. conversion from MySQL to
        > MS-SQL or a similar SQL complient database is really pretty simple. Oracle is the mongrel out
        > there and should be put to a very public open sourced death.

        Funny, I don't have major problems on a typical migration between oracle/sqlserver/db2/postgresql. Oh sure, there are sometimes issues - differenc
      • by jgerry (14280) * <jason DOT gerry AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @02:29PM (#11161421) Homepage
        very public open sourced death

        Not very likely. And not a very good idea either. Until you show me something in the open-source world that can do 1000+ transactions per second, with complete atomicity, and ability to pull the plug on that system and then seamlessly roll it back to the exact moment in time that it was at when it died... Well, you're not replacing Oracle with anything less in the enterprise space.

        By the way -- the "painful" part of converting from an OSS database to Oracle isn't the data conversion, export import, etc. That part is dead easy. The hard part comes when you start customizing your solution to take advantage of some of the huge performance-gaining features that Oracle provides. You have to start figuing out what parts of your application-layer code can be moved to your database, and making those changes at the second and third tier accordingly. You can create massively fast, very complex database systems with Oracle, but it's a very specialized area.

        I'd be all for complete transparency of database from any application, but when you do that you encourage, no, you force, the least common denominator solution.
  • by randall_burns (108052) <randall_burns.hotmail@com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @02:44PM (#11161582)
    I contributed in a very small way to Wine (the windows replacement) development early on. In retrospect, I think that database products like Postgresql are going to be the next big open source wave. Licenses for stuff like Oracle can be very expensive. Also, it simply isn't going to take nearly as much to develop products that are highly SQL language and library call compliant with products like Oracle and SQL Server compared to the effort that has gone into Wine. The next big wave after databases are really done well will be I think the various accounting packages. This is an area where lots of shops want a degree of customization/tailoring.

    • Also, it simply isn't going to take nearly as much to develop products that are highly SQL language and library call compliant with products like Oracle and SQL Server compared to the effort that has gone into Wine.

      I don't think you understand what a high-end database is. Oracle, for example, almost completely abstracts the underlying operating system. Oracle has its own thread scheduling subsystem, for example, with finer-grained quotas and priorities that most Unixes. It's the only way it can offer its
  • by Java Ape (528857) <mike.briggsNO@SPAM360.net> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @06:29PM (#11163561) Homepage
    I work as an Oracle DBA for a large government contractor. I have the usual claims for competence - experience, lots of big installations, mainframes and clusters, certifation etc. I expect Oracle to implode in the next few years. My crystal ball isn't always accurate but here's a few things to think about.

    Oracle is big, bad, and powerful -- fair enough. It's reputation is well deserved. It's also not a single application, but a conglomeration of applications, all of which need to be pursuaded to work together. Since the various limbs of the beast are developed by different branches of Oracle, they mature and are released at various times. Patches come out on an irregular schedule, and my overwrite previous patches, reintroducing old bugs or new incompatabilites. Trying to verify that version x of component a will play with version y of component b in environment c is enough to make one daffy. Babysitting this monster is time-consuming, and time is money. Trying to maintain more than a trivial deployment without tech support is (intentionally, I believe) a fools game. Draconian licensing terms and restrictions combined with the above factors make Oracle EXTREMELY expensive. The local branch of my company (200 employees) drops a tidy quarter-million into Oracle's coffers every year, and we get huge discounts.

    I also maintain a few PostgreSQL databases. They're not quite as capable as the Oracle systems, but they can do at least 90% of what oracle can. They're much easier to configure and maintain, and offer very competitive performance. If we weren't backing oracle to the hilt due to manegerial fiat, they'd do nicely for the vast majority of our systems.

    Other companies are leaving Oracle (and other big commercial companies) to lower their operational costs. As the open-source databases improve, a ever-shrinking group of companies are stranded on "big-$-database island" for technical reasons.

    Oracle has people to pay and a bottom line to watch. As their market-share begins to shrink, how can they protect revenues? Hint: Look at their business strategy over the past few years. Here's the highlights:

    1. Try to improve the product. They're trying, but I'm not going to comment on what I think of the most recent efforts.
    2. Raise prices. Generates more revenue, but it's also fueling a race to jump ship.
    3. Unbundle products, and create "new" must-have applications, each licensed seperately. This is like going into /usr/bin and distributing each tool individually, for a few bucks each (maybe with a few added switches to that you can claim "new and improved". No thanks, I'll write my own.
    4. Control the entire client life-cycle. Oops, I mean facilitate. Oracle has released a plethora of products (designer, developer, OAS etc.) to assist the developer, dba, application manager etc. This is like dealing crack. The apps, individually, aren't too bad (except for OAS, which basically wraps layers of nastiness around Apache to render it impossible to configure/maintain). The real problem is, once you take your first hit, it becomes virtually impossible to use standard tools to deploy, maintain, or version your app. For just a few dollars more, you can acutally use the app you've spent six months developing.
    The business model centeres around squeezing more and more money from a shrinking pool of customers. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to recommend Oracle to any of my clients. Smart managers see the trap of vendor-dependance, and insist on open standards. Large database vendors have a vested interest in trying to `extend and extinguish` those standards, as Oracle is doing.

    I predict that, very soon, pointy-haired-bosses of companies that CAN move to open source will do so 'en masse. The software is stable and mature, all that's missing is corporate mindshare. As that happens, the only recourse the big vendors have is to squeeze huge amounts of cash from the handful of companies who really do depend on the few features not freely available -- an unstable and possibly fatal arrangement for all parties.

    So, I'm working with oracle today, but looking for a good opportunity to jump ship.

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