Data protection and change control drive database developments

Auditing and encryption products address top concerns, while Microsoft shoots the moon

Most of the major vendors came out with major releases in 2005. Oracle Database 10g went to Release 2, giving customers transparent data encryption, enhanced grid management, and a number of performance and security improvements. MySQL released Version 5.0, which gives users the ability to use stored procedures, triggers, and views. Sybase ASE 15 brings truly integrated data partitioning and lays the groundwork for native encryption.

But the biggest news of the year was Microsoft's release of SQL Server 2005. This highly anticipated release is without a doubt Microsoft's most ambitious SQL upgrade to date, and it includes greatly increased security, .Net integration, and stronger high-availability features, among other things. This release finally makes SQL Server competitive with Oracle in the enterprise market.

As predicted last year, database grids -- or dynamic clusters -- still haven't caught on in the mainstream market, although they continue to make headway in specialized niches. It will be a couple more years before there will be any significant rise in grid deployments, and unless the technology finds a way around current limitations, such as in resource sharing and workload division, it will remain a limited market.

Compliance remained a top concern for database managers and will continue as such next year, with specific concentration on auditing database activity and change control. This year saw interesting offerings in this area, among them Quest's SQL Watch, a tool that monitors your SQL Server databases for schema changes. Lumigent also came to the table with Audit DB, a hearty tool for auditing databases.

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Lumigent made news on another front with its August release of Vulnerability Manager 3.0, which is intended to compete directly with AppSecInc's AppDetective. Both of these products assess and manage server and database vulnerabilities. Many of the companies playing in this space are just now getting their functionality kinks worked out, so next year you can expect the introduction of much richer database vulnerability management solutions.

The database backup wars continued in 2005, fought mainly by Imceda and Idera, although Red Gate Software arrived in February with a strong play to the low-end market. Imceda then shocked the playing field in May when it announced a merger with Quest Software. The move may have ensured Imceda/Quest's place in the backup winner's circle, if Quest is willing to invest enough resources to overwhelm the two smaller vendors.

Encryption technology also made a good showing this year and will continue to do so in 2006. Companies such as AppSecInc and Vormetric proved that database encryption can be successfully implemented in various ways. AppSecInc encrypts at the column level, protecting sensitive data such as credit card and Social Security numbers directly so that only authorized personnel can see them. Vormetric encrypts the database files at the server level, so that the files, copies, or backups can't be reloaded and viewed if they're stolen.

The coming year will also bring exciting companion products in the wake of SQL Server 2005. One company to watch is SQL Farms, a startup that already has a revolutionary new SQL editor and will be coming out with a new admin tool that offers some amazing new functionality. Stay tuned.

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