Review of Database Magazine Article – "The Usual Suspects"

In the “Australian Technology and Business Magazine” – December 2005 edition there was an article on comparing database products. Here are my comments, which I also plan to forward to the editor.

BTW: I’ve since also found this articles content on another site here. It seems that most if not all is the same.

In response to your cover story article “The Usual Suspects Four databases we suspect your business could be quite interested in.” which appeared in the December 2005 edition, I would have to sum up your article in one word “Disappointing”. Let me provide some feedback from my perspective.

You start by defining a scenario, which is the only approach you can take for a suitable comparision of database products due to diversity of features available in todays products. A good start, necessary to limit the discussion of features and functionality. However, you then specify some additional business requirements, for example “relatively small e-commerce” and “cost of the initial server and database software is certainly an issue.” Now, having worked for a number of small internet and e-commerce companies, you don’t have the budget for a Dell Quad Xeon processor machine, nor then the requirements for co-located hosting or dedicate networking bandwidth for your fancy new hardware as well as the additional staffing support costs. So immediately your scenario is more unrealistic.

The major sticking point I have is your 4 processor requirement. The most efficient and cost effective initial implementation is to lease dedicated servers, there are numerous reasons including cost savings, better hardware support, larger bandwidth capacity and easy growth path to start. You can also easily monitor growth and more quickly change needs then having a large initial hardware cost. I could continue regarding hosting, however this alone changes the requirements to using single or dual processor machines given your scenario. With this in mind the playing field is now completely different but a better reflection of the scenario. Your argument for “scale up to a small server farm”, also does not hold, because you can easily get economy of scale in splitting application server and database server, splitting OLTP and batch database requirements and other common practices, not to mention additional benefits such as redundancy.

My final comments on your hardware, specifically in relation to MySQL (including using Version 3), you can get significant performance from hardware given your small size requirements and even with modest growth on single and dual processor equipment. Other then opening remarks your article makes no further references to performance requirements or indeed any level of performance analysis of the products reviewed in this article.

You make scant reference to other database products, mentioning only one ‘Sybase’ in half a sentence in your opening and once again. In 8 pages, surely rounding the article to give a clearer perspective of the marketplace with even one paragraph to mention that there are many different database products both commercial and open source that service differing business needs. Other major products not compared at this time include Sybase, Informix, Ingres, PostgreSQL, MaxDB and Berley DB as well as many more.

Your choice of products is also not consistent or reflective of your scenerio. I’ll provide a few specific reasons. Firstly, you compare beta products against production products, if your criteria was current production products you should have compared using MS SQL Server 2000, however that would clearly provide a poor reflection in Microsoft due to it’s clearly dated product. If you allowed one beta product, why then did you not use MySQL 5.0 beta which was available at the time. While you have taken the effort to adjust your article to include references to MySQL 5.0, and you in turn choose MySQL as your editor’s choice, you should have been consistent throughout the article as you give mixed comparising referencing two versions of one product. Futher to this, you choose to use a dated Oracle product in 10g Release 1. 10g Release 2 has been available for a number of months. I would also question your decision to choose the more expensive Standard Edition over Standard Edition One, but this again could be soley due to your overspecd hardware.

If your rationale for including beta was cost based, then you did Oracle a clear injustice. You make again, only a half sentence reference to Oracle’s new released free product in the opening section. You mix more recent MySQL 5.0 information within your review of MySQL 4.1.14, yet you mention nothing of Oracle 10g Express Edition, for example it’s a free product much like Microsoft SQL Server Express, but also has similar limitation in 1 CPU, 1GB RAM and 4GB of disk but all the power and functionality of other Oracle Products, as well as default inclusion of web based administration tools with HTMLDB.

Your quick product summary (4 columns of information) suffers from a number of already mentioned points, however in relation to the only commercial product with a free offering, MS SQL Server Express, you clearly gloss over the limitations. 1 CPU, 1GB Ram and 4GB of disk is critical information, this should have been included in the product summary, you only go part the way. Regarding MySQL, should have clearly stated reference to $0 under GPL license. On that note, and mentioned in your detailed review, there are limitations in the distribution of MySQL within a commercial product and this is not in your summary.

Your article places no emphasis on performance or efficiency. Given your need to mention your testing on quad processor hardware, you make references to various limits of CPU across products, memory and hardware requirements as well as some generic maximum sizings, but nothing on performance, throughput and then growth potential, as this was part of your opening scenario.

It’s not possible to clearly date when this review of products was performed, granted the marketplace has changed rapidly in recent months, the fact that your article references Oracle 10g Express edition clearly includes changes were possible to the article in early November.

In an 8 page article, as mentioned you could have allocated one column to mention that the Database marketplace contains many more products. In particular considering you have included an Open Source product, and you selected this as product of choice, I feel this gives even more justification to at least giving credit to the emerging Open Source Database market. You actually place I recall only one mention to “Open Source” which is signifcant in the context of your choice. Other products would include PostgreSQL, Berkley DB, Apache Derby and even Ingres. While your article should clearly not need to analyse these at this time, by leading into this topic you provide clear opportunity for further discussion.

At the end of the day, while you provided a concise one page breakdown of features and certain limits, this technical information does not provide a clear benefit to an IT manager, or even a technical person.