I’ve seen some discussion around the internet about the age old argument about which is best Sybase or Oracle. I have been reading Mr. Talebzedah article on Sybase vs. Oracle: 10 reasons to use Sybase on Linux and I would agree with many of his statements. Having installed and used both over the years, I would pick Sybase. Why more companies don’t use Sybase more, has always been a mystery to me. Sybase is cheaper to install, and operate both in hardware resource usage, and manpower utilization. As an example, which can be repeated ad finite, one of the companies I worked at required 20 DBA’s to support a single Oracle Financials system in version 7 Oracle. And they were terrified to upgrade to Oracle 8 as Oracle does not supply a migration path. Sybase in this same company was used extensively in 7/24 environments, and only had 18 DBA’s supporting more than 800 Sybase databases, with more than 15,000 logins. In Mr Talebzedah article he mentions 2.5 Oracle DBA’s to one Sybase DBA, and since you and I know that 0.5 DBA’s don’t really exist (see mythical man month) I would put that, rounding factors aside, to 3+ Oracle DBA’s to one Sybase DBA.

Oracle supporters always mention the ‘sophistication’ and maturity of Oracle features, and in the same breath include the requirements for learning more, and of it’s complexity. This complexity extends to it’s high requirements in installation, and operating Oracle databases. Ask an Oracle DBA why they have to maintain backup configuration files three or more times to feel safe? As an example of this heavy requirement for installation, Oracle makes more money consulting on how to install it, than selling the actual RDBMS product. As another cost Oracle DBA’s are higher paid than Sybase DBA’s you do have to pay for all this sophisticated knowledge. That’s not a fault of the DBA, but is is still a business expense, and adds to the TCO.

As for the maturity and sophistication, Oracle may win here, but I am not comparing ASE 15 as I have not used this, but in almost every environment I’ve ever worked in, this sophistication is never utilized. This is not a lack of programming skills in the staff. It has to do with not being locked into any particular RDBMS feature. Many companies are completely heterogeneous with regards to Databases, probably due to corporate merger mania. And database transportability is prized much more than any particular database feature. In some cases junior programmers utilize databases more as file systems than RDBMS systems and hence, gain nothing from the mature, sophisticated features Oracle might provide.

Ultimately Oracle grants nothing in the benefits column when the costs are taken into perspective. Oracle is more expensive, fragile and harder to develop applications for. Sybase is cheaper faster, more stable, and requires less hardware and manpower to operate.