The stealth success of PostgreSQL

Other open source databases may have more name recognition, but PostgreSQL is seeing strong growth -- as is the company EnterpriseDB, which helps develop it

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The other is the "proof of concept" sale. Proprietary software companies can treat up-front consulting and services as a cost of sale, knowing you will be locked in once you take the database to production. But companies selling open source subscriptions can't usually justify the risk, so instead offer some kind of proof-of-concept package to support customers performing evaluations or prototype deployments. Never be put off by a company that wants you to pay for a proof-of-concept; it's a sign they are a genuine open-source-based vendor.

Added value
All the same, EnterpriseDB has some proprietary offerings. One is the Oracle compatibility feature, part of the Postgres Plus Advanced Server package. I asked Boyajian why he felt they needed to keep this proprietary when it was so clear the rest of EnterpriseDB's business was a rounded open-source-based business that respected its customers software freedoms. He cited two reasons.

One was that customers needing this feature had already surrendered their flexibility to Oracle; the second was that the product was of value to other proprietary companies , such as IBM, who had licensed the Oracle compatibility for DB2 starting from version 9.7 in 2010. All the same, he recognized that his enterprise customers -- especially in government, a growth market -- are becoming more experienced in understanding the terms under which they obtain production software and as such will be keeping the matter under review.

As for the future, Boyajian believes there is an important market developing in the cloud. Whereas early cloud offering have emphasised niche applications like edge storage and analytics (for which EnterpriseDB has a Hadoop connector), he believes a growing number of customers will require full-featured relational database capabilities in the cloud. As a consequence, EnterpriseDB recently announced its Postgres Plus Cloud Database. It features a cloud-optimized version of PostgreSQL along with automated database administration capabilities that allow DBAs to manage large database across the cloud easily. The company claims early interest has been strong, with more than 2,300 users kicking its tires since the January launch.

Time will tell whether this approach will allow EnterpriseDB to extend its strong growth into the dynamic, varied, and innovative cloud market where NoSQL, MapReduce, and other techniques are already widely used. But in the decade the company has existed, it's already built a reputation in the community and an enviable customer base, using a rounded, open-source-based business model. Chances are it can.

This article, "The stealth success of PostgreSQL," was originally published at Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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