Top DBMS Product More Than Just Pie in The Sky
The selections for Developer.com's Product of the Year 2005 have been made. Voters cast ballots for their favorite DBMS or Related Technology product and a winner has been selected. Let's review each of the finalists in this category:
- ANTs Data Server
- Embarcadero ER/Studio
- IBM Cloudscape
- Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise Express Edition on Linux
- Sybase Data Window .NET
ANTs Data Server, from ANTs Software, made a strong showing in this year's contest. ANTs is a relational database product with a unique design intended to offer performance orders of a magnitude higher than the competition on SMP (Symmetric Multi-Processor) servers. Votes received for ANTs Data Server demonstrate a continued need for affordable, yet high-performing, databases. Performance needs have only become more acute for modern business software, which is often Web-based and subject to unpredictable and unexpected load volumes. In addition to its performance benefits, ANTs is SQL-92 compatible and offers many of the features you would expect from the products of the leading database vendors, such as online backups, auto failover, and replication. In addition, ANTs Data Server provides support for stored procedures, ODBC (Open Database Connectivity), and JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) clients.
Like the previously mentioned product, Intersystems' Cache is another database, promising high performance, that seemed to appeal to Developer.com readers. Intersystems calls Cache a 'post-relational' database. Post-relational refers to the unique way Cache stores its data in multi-dimensional data structures. By storing data in this manner, Cache attempts to enable faster access and provide developers a more natural path to their data than traditional relational databases can provide. Cache Developers can choose the data access method that makes most sense for their applications, whether that is using traditional SQL or a more object-oriented approach. Cache also provides its own Web-based technology, Cache Server Pages, for enhanced performance in Web-based applications. One individual enthusiastically summarized Cache's best qualities like this: "Track-record, availability, support, affordability, and capability."
"ER/Studio is the best of the current crop of data modeling tools," proclaims one Developer.com voter. Due to positive feedback like this, ER/Studio is the second product nominated this year from Embarcadero Technologies (DT/Studio was nominated in the Java Tools category). Whereas DT/Studio transforms data that moves between disparate systems, ER/Studio assists data architects and developers when modeling and building a relational database. ER/Studio's GUI interface allows you to manage logical and physical data models with a variety of standard design notations. It also supports both forward and reverse engineering into a number of database platforms. Because most enterprises support a number of databases, ER/Studio offers a data dictionary to help enforce standardization throughout the enterprise. The nomination of ER/Studio demonstrates the deservedly high importance placed upon effective data management.
Cloudscape has been a well-known and well-respected product among Java developers for a few years now. Based originally upon the Apache Derby project, Cloudscape is a pure Java, light-weight database ideally suited for embedding into client- or server-side Java applications. In late 2004, IBM announced it was contributing the Cloudscape code to the Apache Software Foundation, transforming Cloudscape from a proprietary solution to a full-fledged open-source product. With this move, Cloudscape joined the ranks of other well-known open-source database applications such as MySQL and PostgreSQL. This decision to open-source Cloudscape certainly played a major role in its nomination for Product of the Year.
Sybase, makers of Sybase ASE (Adaptive Server Enterprise), claim theirs was the first enterprise-ready database to be offered on the Linux platform. The appeals toward the Linux community continue with the release of Express Edition of ASE on Linux. Express Edition is offered free of charge to Linux developers. With some restrictions (namely that the database is limited to one CPU), developers can get started with Express Edition, and then move to a higher-end commercial version if and when the application demands it. Though not open-source, the word free has never failed to appeal to developers. One voter remarked, ASE is "the first enterprise-class commercial database that can take you from pilot to deployment for zero dollars and zero risk. It's free!"
This product is yet another offering from Sybase, though this time the nominated product is aimed at a very different developer group. Data Window .NET is a platform for developing data-driven Microsoft .NET applications. A compliment to Microsoft's own Visual Studio, developers can use Data Window's GUI interface to assemble software with little or no code. Functions such as database retrieval and presentation are reduced to point-and-click actions so developers can devote themselves to the more important details, such as writing business logic. Though the only .NET-centric product to appear in this category, a nomination for a product such as Data Window should be of little surprise, given the tremendous amount of attention the .NET framework enjoys in the development community.
The winner of Product of the Year for this category, Cloudscape, also received nominations in two other categories, one for Open-Source Tool and another nomination in the Wireless/Mobile Development Product category. Although sometimes overshadowed by IBM's flagship database offering, DB2, Cloudscape has earned praise within the Java community as one of only a few pure Java database offerings. Designed to be embeddable in Java applications, Cloudscape leaves a small footprint and is relatively administration free. However, it is also a product whose feature list compares favorably to other, more mature, database offerings. It supports a full set of enterprise-ready capabilities, including stored procedures and triggers, disk encryption, and internationalization support. All of these features aside, one has to assume the single biggest factor that made Cloudscape Product of the Year 2005 is its move into the open-source arena. Looking ahead, Cloudscape is sure to gain a new and larger following and, with the support of Apache and IBM, you can expect many good things to come.
So what do this year's nominations tell of developers' preferences when it comes to RDBMSs? For starters, open-source is clearly a winner among developers. The popularity of Cloudscape aptly demonstrates this (and though not open-source, the free ASE Express Edition from Sybase also attracted a following). The push to support alternative platforms, chief among them Linux, signals a trend that many enterprises are starting to consider non-Windows alternatives to run their systems. Some things, as they say, never change and finalists ANTs Data Server, Cache, and Sybase ASE prove that customers are always on the lookout for a database product that supplies maximum performance without the cost of additional hardware.
About the Author
Michael Klaene is a Senior Consultant with Sogeti LLC. He has spent over 9 years in Information Technology and is an experienced Systems Analyst, delivering solutions that involve numerous technologies, such as J2EE and .NET.