The worldwide market for relational database management systems (RDBMS) grew to $14.9 billion in 2004, an increase of 11.6%, according to research analyst group IDC. However, although all five of the top vendors showed favourable year-on-year growth, the robustness of their reported growth was due more to currency movements than to a hike in sales.
Oracle retained its position as leader, with 41.3% of the worldwide market. Microsoft boasted the largest year-on-year growth on a percentage basis, while IBM and Sybase trailed the overall market growth rate.
"There is no question that the overall trend is favourable – companies are clearly spending again to meet their backlog of database management requirements," says Carl Olofson of IDC. But he stresses that the fact that all the top five are US companies meant that their numbers were artificially inflated by the weakening of the dollar against other currencies over the period.
IDC predicts that in 2005, leading vendors will predominantly target mid-sized companies in an effort to grow their market share. Microsoft is currently the dominant force in this segment, but it will increasingly be warding off competition from Oracle and IBM, both of which plan to intensify their push into the middle market over the next year. However, warns Olofson, market leaders will increasingly face competition from open source products, particularly MySQL.