Skip to content

On the Database Market. Interview with Merv Adrian

by Roberto V. Zicari on April 23, 2019

“Anyone who expects to have some of their work in the cloud (e.g. just about everyone) will want to consider the offerings of the cloud platform provider in any shortlist they put together for new projects. These vendors have the resources to challenge anyone already in the market.”– Merv Adrian.

I have interviewed Merv Adrian, Research VP, Data & Analytics at Gartner. We talked about the the database market, the Cloud and the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems.


Q1. Looking Back at 2018, how has the database market changed?

Merv Adrian: At a high level, much is similar to the prior year. The DBMS market returned to double digit growth in 2017 (12.7% year over year in Gartner’s estimate) to $38.8 billion. Over 73% of that growth was attributable to two vendors: Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, reflecting the enormous shift to new spending going to cloud and hybrid-capable offerings. In 2018, the trend grew, and the erosion of share for vendors like Oracle, IBM and Teradata continued. We don’t have our 2018 data completed yet, but I suspect we will see a similar ballpark for overall growth, with the same players up and down as last year. Competition from Chinese cloud vendors, such as Alibaba Cloud and Tencent, is emerging, especially outside North America.

Q2. What most surprised you?

Merv Adrian: The strength of Hadoop. Even before the merger, both Cloudera and Hortonworks continued steady growth, with Hadoop as a cohort outpacing all other nonrelational DBMS activity from a revenue perspective. With the merger, Cloudera becomes the 7th largest vendor by revenue and usage and intentions data suggest continued growth in the year ahead.

Q3. Is the distinction between relational and nonrelational database management still relevant?

Merv Adrian: Yes, but it’s less important than the cloud. As established vendors refresh and extend product offerings that build on their core strengths and capabilities to provide multimodel DBMS and/or or broad portfolios of both, the “architecture” battle will ramp up. New disruptive players and existing cloud platform providers will have to battle established vendors where they are strong – so for DMSA players like Snowflake will have more competition and on the OPDBMS side, relational and nonrelational providers alike – such as EnterpriseDB, MongoDB, and Datastax – will battle more for a cloud foothold than a “nonrelational” one.
Specific nonrelational plays like Graph, Time Series, and ledger DBMSs will be more disruptive than the general “nonrelational” category.

Q4. Artificial intelligence is moving from sci-fi to the mainstream. What is the impact on the database market?

Merv Adrian: Vendors are struggling to make the case that much of the heavy lifting should move to their DBMS layer with in-database processing. Although it’s intuitive, it represents a different buyer base, with different needs for design, tools, expertise and operational support. They have a lot of work to do.

Q5. Recently Google announced BigQuery ML. Machine Learning in the (Cloud) Database. What are the pros and cons?

Merv Adrian: See the above answer. Google has many strong offerings in the space – putting them together coherently is as much of a challenge for them as anyone else, but they have considerable assets, a revamped executive team under the leadership of Thomas Kurian, and are entering what is likely to be a strong growth phase for their overall DBMS business. They are clearly a candidate to be included in planning and testing.

Q6. You recently published the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems. In a nutshell. what are your main insights?

Merv Adrian: Much of that is included in the first answer above. What I didn’t say there is that the degree of disruption varies between the Operational and DMSA wings of the market, even though most of the players are the same. Most important, specialists are going to be less relevant in the big picture as the converged model of application design and multimodel DBMSs make it harder to thrive in a niche.

Q7. To qualify for inclusion in this Magic Quadrant, vendors must have had to support two of the following four use cases: traditional transactions, distributed variable data, operational analytical convergence and event processing or data in motion. What is the rational beyond this inclusion choice?

Merv Adrian: The rationale is to offer our clients the offerings with the broadest capabilities. We can’t cover all possibilities in depth, so we attempt to reach as many as we can within the constraints we design to map to our capacity to deliver. We call out specialists in various other research offerings such as Other Vendors to Consider, Cool Vendor, Hype Cycle and other documents, and pieces specific to categories where client inquiry makes it clear we need to have a published point of view.

Q8. How is the Cloud changing the overall database market?

Merv Adrian: Massively. In addition to functional and architectural disruption, it’s changing pricing, support, release frequency, and user skills and organizational models. The future value of data center skills, container technology, multicloud and hybrid challenges and more are hot topics.

Q9. In your Quadrant you listed Amazon Web Services, Alibaba Cloud and Google. These are no pure database vendors, strictly speaking. What role do they play in the overall Operational DBMS market?

Merv Adrian: Anyone who expects to have some of their work in the cloud (e.g. just about everyone) will want to consider the offerings of the cloud platform provider in any shortlist they put together for new projects. These vendors have the resources to challenge anyone already in the market. And their deep pockets, and the availability of open source versions of every DBMS technology type that they can use – including creating their own versions of with optimizations for their stack and pre-built integrations to upstream and downstream technologies required for delivery – makes them formidable.

Q10. What are the main data management challenges and opportunities in 2019?

Merv Adrian: Avoiding silver bullet solutions, sticking to sound architectural principles based on understanding real business needs, and leveraging emerging ideas without getting caught in dead end plays. Pretty much the same as always. The details change, but sound design and a focus on outcomes remain the way forward.

Qx Anything else you wish to add?

Merv Adrian: Fasten your seat belt. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.



Merv Adrian, Research VP, Data & Analytics. Gartner

Merv Adrian is an Analyst on the Data Management team following operational DBMS, Apache Hadoop, Spark, nonrelational DBMS and adjacent technologies. Mr. Adrian also tracks the increasing impact of open source on data management software and monitors the changing requirements for data security in information platforms.


–  2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems

–  2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Management Solutions for Analytics

–  2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine Learning Platforms

Follow us on Twitter: @odbmsorg


From → Uncategorized

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS