Google Trends is a great tool for graphing search term popularity over time. Here is a comparison of searches for several makes of database.
Perhaps it’s a quirk of the phrases I used, but I was surprised to see Oracle so dominant, and even MySQL more popular than SQL Server. PostgreSQL languishes in obscurity compared to MySQL, and Ingres barely registers at all.
Here’s some languages that I’m interested in. Java is hugely dominant.
Let’s take out Java and zoom in. I was surprised to see Ruby’s recent decline relative to Python. Books on Scala have come out only recently.
Looking more specifically at JVM language dialects I’m surprised to see Jython competing so strongly with JRuby. I’m not sure if I picked the right phrase for Groovy.
Choosing tools solely on the basis of popularity is obviously not a great idea, but I do feel better now about continuing to use Oracle, Java and Python.
P.S. See also the TIOBE Programming Community Index
Should you upgrade Microsoft Exchange or switch to an alternative? It depends what you want. In addition to hosting your own solution it is now possible to outsource to a SaaS provider, providing management and investors are comfortable with the idea. Requirements to consider:
- Compatibility with Microsoft Outlook. All mail servers support IMAP and POP to access and download mail, but fewer solutions support Microsoft’s various proprietary protocol and extensions (eg. MAPI/RPC) used by more advanced features of Outlook. Open source implementations are still a work in progress.
- Storage management. Traditionally mail servers have supported a mailbox of up to 1-2GB, but what happens when a user accumulates more than that?
- Spam filtering and support for e-discovery. Postini addresses this well upstream from your corporate mail server and eliminates this as an issue.
- Smartphone integration. More proprietary protocols are used to synchronize smartphones using Windows ME or Blackberry OS.
Solutions to consider:
- Google. Google offers a hosted solution with IMAP. Premier edition offers 25GB storage and 99.9% uptime (=8-9 hours/year downtime) for $50/yr.
- Yahoo Zimbra. Competing solutions similar to Zimbra include Zarafa, Axigen and Scalix (fka. HP OpenMail). Zimbra gets the best reviews, however.
- MailStreet and Apptix have received good reviews for providing hosted Microsoft Exchange email services. MailStreet charges around $8/mo. including Outlook licence and 2GB storage.
Looking into the future Open-Xchange is closest to providing an open source solution including MAPI/RPC.
Reasons to outsource:
- The business is growing rapidly and leveraging an existing third party infrastructure is quicker/less risky than building/scaling one’s own. In this case it is worth paying a premium for the infrastructure, which is more than offset by the value to stakeholders of growing the business rapidly with less IT risk. The key aspect here is, speed to market.
- A third party has knowledge, skills, or some other limited resource that the business wants to leverage, and paying a premium to a third party makes more sense than acquiring the resource using internal staff. The key aspect here is non-core specialization.
- A third party is able to subdivide a pool of resources between multiple clients and thereby deliver a service more cheaply than individual clients could do so on their own. This is economy of scale, and provided some of these economies are shared with clients it will never make sense for the business to insource.
- Even if the above aspects do not apply management may lack clear visibility or confidence in internal processes, and may choose to outsource an IT service using a negotiated contract to a separate organization for financial discipline and control.
Reasons to insource:
- Outsourcing requires more formal agreements between organizations and ongoing efforts to ensure goals are mutually aligned. Hence, if there is no compelling reason to outsource then insourcing requires less management overhead.
- An IT process may be intimately related to an innovative business process or product that is a source of competitive advantage. In this case stakeholders may want this knowledge kept in house, and in any case it may be of limited value to a third party to acquire this knowledge on the business’s behalf: this is core specialization.
- Third parties may be unwilling or unable to indemnify the business against certain risks, for example theft of sensitive customer data. More generally insourcing may be considered the most practical response to certain legal concerns.
Insourcing/outsourcing should not be confused with asset ownership, and in particular intellectual property rights and licences. It may make sense to outsource certain processes, while seeking to own related assets.