Gartner published its Magic Quadrant report on operational database management systems for 2015. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP retained top positions, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) joined the club as a database leader.

The report includes commercial and open source database vendors from multiple segments, including traditional relational database management systems (RDBMS), NoSQL databases, and In-memory databases. The deployment model can be anything from licensed software to the public cloud to an appliance. Gartner mentioned that they considered database platforms that have support for transaction durability, backup, and recovery features.

The database market has been constantly evolving to meet the growing needs of customers. The inclusion of over 30 vendors in the report indicates the crowded nature of this market.

Here are the key takeaways from the report.

Microsoft displaces Oracle from its top spot

Gartner placed Microsoft ahead of Oracle within the leaders’ quadrant, furthest in vision and highest for the ability to execute. This recognition is a result of Microsoft’s recent investments in its data platform, including Azure DocumentDB, the managed NoSQL database in the cloud. SQL Server’s hybrid capabilities to run on-premises and in the cloud also helped Microsoft move to the top slot. Gartner credited the company’s vision for in-memory computing across products, hybrid cloud implementations, and a “cloud first” strategy, placing it ahead of its competitors in the Magic Quadrant.

Oracle is one of the widely deployed RDBMSs in the enterprise, but with cloud becoming the key differentiator, Oracle continues to struggle to retain its market position. Customers are preferring flexible licensing models, aligning with the OPEX model of cloud. Gartner noted that a growing number of users expressed dissatisfaction with Oracle’s draconian pricing and auditing policies. Customers are also concerned with vendor lock-in when adopting its appliance offerings such as Exadata and SuperCluster.

AWS, the surprising new entrant in the Magic Quadrant

Amazon entered the Magic Quadrant in style — it took the slot right below Oracle reserved for the leaders. This is certainly an area of concern for traditional database vendors IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP.

AWS has two database offerings: Amazon RDS and Amazon DynamoDB. RDS offers mainstream databases such as Microsoft SQL, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, and MariaDB as managed database platforms. DynamoDB is the key-value based managed NoSQL database offering.

Amazon launched its own database engine called Aurora as one of the supported engines of RDS. The choice it offers to its customers helped AWS grab a top slot.

IBM is losing the database market share

Though IBM has been expanding its portfolio of database offerings, Gartner reports that its market share is steadily declining. IBM’s DB2 is one of the proven RDBMSs in the enterprise. In the recent past, it acquired a NoSQL database called Cloudant. The company also announced its support for Apache Spark. The company differentiates itself through an integrated hardware and software platform.

Gartner reported that the surveyed customer base of IBM rated it in the bottom third for high transaction rates, and near the bottom for performance. It scored below the mean for high-speed ingestion and automated data distribution.

SAP is facing heat from cloud vendors

Apart from Oracle, the other vendor that’s facing stiff competition from cloud-based vendors is SAP. It currently has three offerings: SAP Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE), SAP SQL Anywhere, and SAP Hana. Hana is offered as a cloud database platform through Hana Cloud Platform (HCP), a combined offering of SAP Hana and SAP ASE into a single cloud dbPaaS offering. Customers are concerned with the way SAP is pushing its agenda of making SAP HANA a general-purpose software platform. According to Gartner, the number of survey respondents reporting software and bugs were the highest of all the vendors profiled in the report.

Big data adoption is on the rise

Some of the mainstream Hadoop vendors that made into the Magic Quadrant are Cloudera, Hortonworks, and MapR. Existing customers of these big data stacks are committed to increasing their investments.

Gartner mentioned that most of the current Cloudera customers indicated an intention to purchase additional licenses, products, or features in the next 12 months. Hortonworks is enjoying high market visibility and awareness among enterprises. Gartner found that one of the Hortonworks customers reported it as the second-largest database by volume and highest number of transactions processed per day. MapR is expanding its cloud offerings and auditing support through training and services.

What this means to enterprise IT

According to Gartner, by 2017, leading operational DBMS vendors will converge multiple data models, relational and NoSQL, into a single data platform. The market will consolidate itself by 2018, through mergers, acquisitions, and business failures. Gartner predicts that by 2017, the term “NoSQL” will not be relevant as it ceases to distinguish database offerings. Major data platforms will unify relational and NoSQL database engines.

Organizations are defining the database strategy that includes transactional systems, scale-out databases, in-memory databases, and big data processing. The fact that Gartner has included traditional RDBMS, NoSQL, and big data vendors in one report indicates the convergence of data platforms in the enterprise. The choice of vendors and deployment options enable customers to choose the platform and deployment models that align with their business requirements.