COMMENT: In The Field

Listening to You
By Ari Kaplan

IOUG surveys provide guidance for expanding databases and open source software issues.

Whom do you listen to? When you need insight into how to do your job better or where the database industry is headed, what is your best source of information? Does one particular columnist resonate with you? Is it a company's press releases or white papers that make you go "Hmm"? Is it some coworker or colleague who has just the right perspective on the matters that matter?

The Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) conducts quarterly surveys of its membership on all kinds of issues that affect your job, your enterprise, and the industry as a whole. The monthly magazine Database Trends and Applications and vendors looking for specific information sponsor these surveys, but it's your opinion that makes them valuable. These e-mail surveys go out to 20,000 IOUG members worldwide, and what the membership says is worth listening to.

One recent IOUG survey about database growth revealed invaluable information for perspective and planning purposes. Databases are growing by 20 to 80 percent per year. Just a few years ago, a 10GB database was big. Our survey revealed that 23 percent of enterprises now have at least one terabyte-sized database. These bigger databases aren't just found at large enterprises, although 41 percent of large enterprises do report at least one terabyte database. Fully 24 percent of medium enterprises and 10 percent of small enterprises also report terabyte databases. Some enterprises—including heavyweights like Google, Yahoo!, and Oracle itself—report petabyte-sized database environments. (That's a million gigabytes.)

Such large databases, and the yearly growth in all databases, present challenges that we need to handle. Backup solutions need to become faster—perhaps more selective—if our backup windows aren't to exceed operational windows. Performance issues—how the application response scales with database size—must be investigated, clarified, and solved. Replication to multiple sites—for high availability, disaster recovery, and efficient access—becomes problematic with large and growing databases. The storage aspect is significant, with tiers of options—archives, expensive disks, inexpensive disks—to consider and select.

Another recent IOUG survey queried the use of Linux, an open source operating system with both free and for-pay versions. Once regarded as a hobbyist operating system, Linux now has a place at most enterprises, and its adoption is increasing. The survey suggests that in the next year, Linux installations will increase from 37 to 44 percent of enterprises in a year; Windows popularity will fall from 60 to 48 percent, and UNIX will fall from 74 to 67 percent.

The main attraction of Linux is cost savings: It's hard to say no to free. "You get what you pay for" doesn't seem to apply to a solid and stable operating system that many major enterprises accept. Even the for-pay versions of Linux are less expensive than the more widely used commercial operating systems. Performance and reliability equal or exceed those of commercial products, according to many respondents. Clearly Linux is a phenomenon that we all need to be aware of and to include in enterprise planning.

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In the recent survey, Linux has taken the lead as the top platform for databases, but Linux is only one example of open source software that many enterprises use. A full 66 percent of respondents reported using open source software for at least one mission-critical application. In fact, 9 percent use it for more than half of their critical apps. And although price is the irresistible appeal of open source software, other considerations are important. Maintenance and support is one of the major concerns: 35 percent of those surveyed see open source as more difficult than commercial software to maintain and support.

The rapid adoption of open source in Oracle environments presents many challenges, as well as rewards, for enterprises. Companies need to plan for integrating open source solutions and have firm policies in place. Do the open source solutions meet company security policies? Are current applications compatible and certified with the open source technologies? Does staff need to be retrained for new skills? Will the scalability and performance meet business requirements? These and other questions need to be asked before companies can realize the rewards of cost savings, easier maintenance, and better performance.

The IOUG surveys will continue in the year ahead, giving everyone the opportunity to profit from the valuable experience and perspective that IOUG members offer. The IOUG is listening to DBAs, IT directors, system architects, application designers, project managers, CIOs, and presidents like you.

Ari Kaplan ( is president of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) and senior consultant at Datalink. He founded Expand Beyond Corporation, a leader in mobile IT software. He has been involved in Oracle technology since 1992.

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