Last year there were seven Leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Operational Database Management Systems (Operational DBMS).

This year there are 11. Percentage-wise, that's an increase of more than 57 percent.

Now consider this: There's a 37-year difference between the age of the oldest and the youngest vendor in the leaders quadrant. Six of the 11 came to market after 2000, two of them as recently as 2011.

Needless to say, there’s a great deal of disruption in the operational database world and today we’re only talking about the vendors Gartner rates at the top.

Immaturity Can Be Good

While the older and more established Leaders — IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP — still own the lion’s share of the market, AWS is right there with them.

The majority of the six that remain are based on open source databases. Note that we’re not talking primarily about market share here, but Gartner’s criteria: completeness of vision and ability to execute.

Though we’ll say more in our next article on this MQ, Gartner researchers made one other especially interesting observation: “Clients often expect that doing business with new vendors can be challenging because of these vendors' relative immaturity.”

But it turns out that’s not always true.

Learning Opportunities

So Who Leads the Pack?

Without further ado, here are Gartner’s operational DBMS MQ Leaders for 2015.

  1. Redmond, Wash.-basedMicrosoft was a big surprise in this MQ because it edged out Oracle to earn the top spot. Its operational DBMS portfolio includes SQL Server DBMS for the operational DBMS market, as well as the Microsoft Azure SQL Database (a DBMS platform as a service), and the NoSQL DBMSs Microsoft Azure DocumentDB and Azure Tables. Gartner applauded Microsoft’s cloud-first vision, its standout execution and strong references.The analyst pointed to Microsoft’s market image (which it said may not be justified), lack of an appliance and pricing as weak spots.
  2. Redwood Shores, Calif.-basedOracle leads the market in revenue, in its broad range of offerings and its pricing flexibility. The latter is was driven by customer demand, said Gartner. It’s interesting to note that Larry Ellison and his team paid attention and took action.On the downside, perceived lock-in (which is rapidly becoming a showstopper with any vendor) was cited as a cause for concern. Gartner noted that Oracle received the lowest rating in the MQ for its value proposition and its “draconian” pricing and auditing policies.
  3. Seattle-basedAmazon Web Services(AWS) earned kudos for its diversity of product capabilities which “meet or exceed” market demands, geographic availability and ease of use doing business.But its cloud-mostly (Amazon is often thought of as cloud-only) offering might be a deterrent to some enterprises, said the Gartner analysts.
  4. Armonk, N.Y.-basedIBM’s portfolio of databases that “cover most use cases” earned high marks. Its global presence, among other features also stood out. On the downside IBM seems to offer too little bang for the buck, a substandard business experience, and lousy performance, Gartner claims.
  5. Walldorf, Germany-basedSAP ranks highly for its growing DBMS portfolio, which includes in-memory SAP Hana as well as its Cloud support for the Hana Cloud Platform (HCP).That being said, SAP’s “assertive” selling and marketing don’t seem to appeal to customers, according to Gartner’s research. Concerns over software bugs and support, as well its low scores around its professional services dog it as well. That being said, Gartner noted that the software-maker was on right track in terms of improving on the latter two.
  6. MongoDB, with headquartersin New York City and Palo Alto, Calif.,has a new executive team, which Gartner cited as an asset. It seems that its customers prefer more experienced, more mature management. The company’s vision to move beyond its NoSQL roots and the high grades customers gave it for service and delivery were also described in a positive light.However, the analysts discovered that MongoDB’s proof of concept (POC) doesn’t always pan out and that there’s room for improvement in license renegotiation and customer experience.
  7. Santa Clara, Calif.-basedDataStax stands above the crowd in a few important ways. The majority of its customers told Gartner they expect to broaden their use of vendor’s Apache Cassandra based database. Not only that, but it’s also worth noting that the researchers learned that DataStax is becoming the database standard at its client firms.Still, Gartner reported that a lack of DataStax certified engineers in the market affected adoption, something that DataStax CEO Billy Bosworth told CMSWire in September. With training going on worldwide, it appears to be a problem that time will solve.
  8. Cambridge, Mass.-basedInterSystems received some of the highest scores for performance among all 30 vendors in the MQ. Its ability to work with a wide variety of data types and its breadth of functionality also rated highly.The vendor, which originated as a provider to the Healthcare market, apparently needs to let potential customers know that its database lends itself to other industries too. So it goes to follow that marketing needs improvement as well.
  9. Mountain View, Calif.-basedRedis Labs rated highly against the competition in areas like caching and performance, customer experience and more. Gartner also highlighted its vertical solutions which make it easier to implement.Where it seems to have fallen short is market visibility — Gartner said that most of the companies it surveyed didn’t even know Redis Labs existed. Its revenue model leaves room for improvement as well.
  10. San Carlos, Calif.-basedMarkLogic has improved on its completeness of vision in the past year in areas such as reliability and a growing feature set. But flags were raised because the database is apparently hard to use, its pricing model needs to be improved and its plans for rapid expansion create room for uncertainty.
  11. Boston-basedEnterpriseDB, whichsupports and markets the PostgreSQL open-source DBMS,got good marks for stability and an Oraclecompatibility feature that "ismore than sufficient to run both mission-critical and non-mission-critical applications." However,users gave it moderate to low scores for performance andease of operation, and Gartner warned that it needed tomanage economic expectations carefully because of its association with an open-source community.

No One is Perfect

It’s important to note that Gartner lists both Strengths and Cautions for every vendor in the Operational DBMS market, even the leaders in the Leaders Quadrant.

This particular MQ stands out because of the disruptive nature of the new vendors in the space; they are often based on open source technologies and built in, and for, the Internet era.

The Gartner report is available for download from most of the vendors, including Microsoft(registration required).

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Title image by Jared Erondu