Oracle continued to top the worldwide database market last year, propelled by companies migrating to Oracle Database on Linux, according to figures released today by two leading market research companies.

Both IDC and Dataquest said Oracle had nearly half of the total market by revenue, which IDC valued at US$14.6 billion and Dataquest pegged as $13.8 billion. The markets basically remained an oligopoly, with both analyst firms showing IBM with about 22 percent of the market and Microsoft, despite strong year-over-year gains from its release of SQL Server 2005, still in third place - with 17 percent of the market, according to IDC, or 15 percent, according to Dataquest.

Despite the oft-cited maturity of the database market, sales still grew year over year by 8.3 percent, said Dataquest, which is a unit of Gartner. IDC pegged the annual growth at 9.4 percent.

The two research firms use different methodologies to calculate market share, leading to slightly different figures for the same companies, as well as for their annual growth rates.

Linux was the fastest-growing database platform, up 84 percent year over year and "driven primarily by Oracle," according to Gartner analyst Colleen Graham. Database revenues on mainframes grew faster than database revenues on Unix.

NCR's Teradata unit and Sybase rounded out the top five, with each company taking about 3 percent market share. The former saw growth due to strong interest in data warehousing, while the latter was boosted by strong sales in Asia, especially China, according to IDC.

Dataquest predicted that the database market will continue to grow at a similar rate through 2010, citing organisations buying databases for business intelligence and data warehousing activities. IDC concurred, though it also attributed growth to the falling price of storage - making it cheaper than in the past to deploy more databases for fail-over, disaster recovery, reporting and scalability purposes.

Both research firms said that database licensing prices are falling, driven by Microsoft and open-source products such as MySQL, PostGresSQL and Ingres. The latter databases "could ultimately spur a fundamental change in the way that [database] products are priced and licensed," wrote Carl Olafson, an IDC analyst.