Bye-bye, Big Red? Escaping Oracle's not that easy

Open source databases PostgreSQL and MariaDB are making strides, but need more than technical edge or lower price to attract Oracle customers

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But once people have a taste of how thorough Oracle's product support is, they're reluctant to let go. Oracle's as hard to get rid of as a legacy mainframe system. Despite all the crowing that went on about Java being dead as an enterprise app platform, it remains firmly entrenched, and Oracle plans to make the most of it via everything from the Internet of things to the various surprising uses of the JVM.

The real place where PostgreSQL and MariaDB can and have made inroads is with everyone who comes in with a clean slate. When two guys in a garage want to start something big, they spin up some Amazon EC2 instances and go to town, and make MySQL (or MariaDB) part of the plan. When a company like that hits it big, it turns to the likes of Salesforce or SugarCRM for its line-of-business app needs. No greenfield projects use Oracle -- not when there are plenty of ways to build great things from scratch without the merciless lock-in of Oracle.

What would a real Oracle killer look like? It wouldn't be any one database solution, that's for sure. It would be more like a whole migration services platform -- one where you could have experts come in, look at your Oracle application and DB mix, and construct a custom migration solution. That's not something you can provide as a download; it has to be specially put together.

It's reminiscent of the way people used to talk of Linux being an across-the-board Microsoft killer. Today, Linux is ubiquitous and indispensable, but Microsoft is still very much alive and kicking -- the black eye of Windows 8 notwithstanding. Some of that is embrace-and-extend on the server side: It's done its best to make Windows Server run Linux well inside Hyper-V, and it's bolstered support for many common open source frameworks and languages in Windows Server. But few people expect the desktop world, where Microsoft reigned supreme for so long, to be its central market for much longer.

A lot of that is tenacity of a sort that Oracle itself is likely to exhibit -- that is, once its business really starts getting eaten into on the legacy high end by the likes of all that open source competition.

This story, "Bye-bye, Big Red? Escaping Oracle's not that easy," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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