EnterpriseDB CEO: Open source databases are 'unstoppable force'

EnterpriseDB CEO Andy Astor saw potential in the PostgreSQL open source database. In fact, this company, which is only one year old, has bet the house on the technology, which has been developed and refined from its infancy at the hands of a few software engineers at Berkeley, Calif., over the course of the past 20 years. Astor's company is releasing a beta version of EnterpriseDB this week. He recently spoke with SearchEnterpriseLinux.com, examining the future of the open source database, which he labels the 'unstoppable force' necessary to weaken the behemoths of the industry, including SQL Server and Oracle.

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First off, you decided to build on the PostgreSQL platform -- why go there? PostgreSQL has had 20 years of continuous community development, and today is one of the most active open source communities on the planet. It is widely considered the most mature and advanced open source database there is. What we did early last year was conduct a survey of all open source products available. We evaluated all of them, including PostgreSQL....

We recognized PostgreSQL as the best base to build this product. To date we've worked in the lowest level of the PostgreSQL core to ensure that all four major areas in database programming compatible to open source development have been touched upon: SQL syntax, triggers, data types and stored procedures. Do you believe open source can ultimately erode Microsoft's dominance? Yes, I do. In fact I believe that it is already an unstoppable force at this point in time. Is cost the only thing that is driving the interest in open source database management system? Really, it isn't just about cost. Frankly, the reason people give for going to open source is the quality and manageability they get. The quality of product that has been developed and quality assured by hundreds of thousands of people over the years is light-years ahead of what any other organization can produce. First of all, there is definitely a cost advantage, and second there is also a great quality advantage, while thirdly there is a new business model emerging within the open source community concerning databases. This model occurs when the community takes the code to a certain point where it is universally applicable and then a commercial organization arrives and adds value onto it. The organizations are taking open source databases and are then adding on top of that a value-add, as well as support. They are actually extending the product in such a way that it appeals to some broad segment of the market. How are attitudes toward open source changing? First of all most important trend is that open source databases have -- and open source in general for that matter -- established enterprise credibility really over past year. Until a year ago, it really would not have been possible to put an open source database out into the marketplace and have it become a logical candidate to replace Oracle and SQL Server. However, I think that has changed now that Linux has taken off. Along with Apache, JBoss and IBM's purchase of Gluecode, all these events imply that open source has hit the mainstream. PostgreSQL has been commercially recognized in general as very small environments, and the reason why PostgreSQL hasn't caught on is that there has not been an organization backing it. Standards used today are for Oracle and SQL Server and so forth. If you build around those standards and have scalability and enhancements like we have done with EnterpriseDB, we really think a company will have an opportunity to succeed. Our enhancements to PostgreSQL have resulted in a truly enterprise-class product, priced to reflect its open source heritage. To be enterprise-class, a database must be reliable, compatible and scalable. In other words, it must rigorously ensure data integrity, support standard practices familiar to enterprise developers and run fast when executing update-intensive, transactional applications. What are the key differences between the MySQL and EnterpriseDB open source licenses? Is EnterpriseDB truly open source in every sense of the term? MySQL is very fast for certain types of applications, while PostgreSQL is known as a very fast and secure database with great data integration and on updating trend applications, which are the applications companies run their business on. That's where the $15 billion market is.

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How important is it that an open source DBMS be compatible with apps written for Oracle today?
We think it's critical. With all of the research we have done with 500 companies … this is not just a critical component, but it is now a motivating factor that makes people say 'When an [open source] version is available, I want to try it.' Companies are currently locked into their current vendor, and to a whole bunch of applications. The EDB product includes EDB Database Server, the RDBMS engine, EDB Studio, a graphical console for developers and DBAs and EDB Connectors, which provide access to EDB from JDBC [Java Database Connectivity], ODBC [Open Database Connectivity], .NET, ESQL/C++, PHP, Perl and Python. A recent Oracle user's group conference in Orlando, Fla., had a panel discussion on the future of DBAs. Is automation a trend your company thinks about?
Astor: Because of the fact that Oracle can be extremely complex to administer, we have endeavored to keep our product as simple as possible to deal with. There are 200 dials to turn in PostgreSQL, and we try and make the setting of those knobs as simple and automated for users as possible. If you are talking automation as simplification, this is certainly an emerging trend in open source-based databases.

Editor's Note: The EDB public beta period begins immediately, with general availability expected this summer. During the public beta period, commercial-grade technical support will be provided free of charge. The software and more information concerning the company and product are available at the company's Web site, www.enterprisedb.com.

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