Within the past two years, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft have all released freely available versions of their flagship database servers, a move that would have been unheard of just a few years ago. While their respective representatives would argue the move was made in order to better accommodate the needs of all users, it's fairly clear that continued pressure from open source alternatives such as MySQL and PostgreSQL have caused these database juggernauts to rethink their strategies within this increasingly competitive market.
While PostgreSQL's adoption rate continues to accelerate, some folks wonder why that rate isn't even steeper given its impressive array of features. One can speculate that many of the reasons for not considering its adoption tend to be based on either outdated or misinformed sources.
In an effort to dispel some of the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) surrounding this impressive product, instead, I'll put forth several of the most commonplace reasons companies have for not investigating PostgreSQL further.
Reason #1: It doesn't run on Windows
PostgreSQL has long supported every modern Unix-compatible operating system, and ports are also available for Novell NetWare and OS/2. With the 8.0 release, PostgreSQL's support for all mainstream operating systems was complete, as it included a native Windows port.
Now, you can install the PostgreSQL database on a workstation or laptop with relative ease, thank to an installation wizard similar to that used for installing Microsoft Word or Quicken.
Reason #2: No professional development and administration tools
Most users who are unfamiliar with open source projects tend to think DB administrators manage them entirely through a series of cryptic shell commands. Indeed, while PostgreSQL takes advantage of the powerful command-line environment, there are a number of graphical-based tools available for carrying out tasks such as administration and database design.
The following list summarizes just a few of the tools available to PostgreSQL developers:
- Database modeling: Several commercial and open source products are at your disposal for data modeling, some of which include Visual Case and Data Architect.
- Administration and development: There are numerous impressive efforts going on in this area, and three products are particularly promising. pgAdmin III has a particularly long development history and is capable of handling practically any task ranging from simple table creation to managing replication across multiple servers. Navicat PostgreSQL offers features similar to pgAdmin III and is packaged in a very well-designed interface. A good, Web-based tool is phpPgAdmin.
- Reporting: PostgreSQL interfaces with all mainstream reporting tools, including Crystal Reports, Cognos ReportNet, and the increasingly popular open source reporting package JasperReports.
Reason #3: PostgreSQL doesn't support my language
Today's enterprise often relies on an assortment of programming languages, and if the sheer number of PostgreSQL API contributions available are any indication, the database is being used in all manner of environments.
Reason #4: There's nobody to blame when something goes wrong
The misconception that open source projects lack technical support options is curious, particularly if one's definition of support does not involve simply having somebody to blame when something goes wrong.
You can find the answers to a vast number of support questions in the official PostgreSQL manual, which consists of almost 1,450 pages of detailed documentation regarding every aspect of the database, ranging from a synopsis of supported data types to system internals.
Proprietary vendors' free databases:
Database heavyweights IBM, Microsoft and Oracle have all recently released free versions of their products. More information about the respective products can be found by navigating to the following links:
The PostgreSQL documentation is available for online perusal and downloading in PDF format. For more help, there are a number of newsgroups accessible through Google groups, with topics ranging across performance, administration, SQL construction, development and general matters.
If you're looking for a somewhat more immediate response, hundreds of PostgreSQL devotees can be found logged into IRC (irc.freenode.net #postgresql?).
You can plug in to IRC chat clients for all common operating systems (Windows included) at any given moment. For instance, on a recent Wednesday evening, there were more than 240 individuals logged into the channel. Waking up the next morning, I found more than 252 logged in, including a few well-known experts in the community. The conversation topics ranged from helping newcomers get logged into their PostgreSQL installation for the first time to advanced decision tree generation algorithms. Everyone is invited to participate and ask questions no matter how simplistic or advanced.
For those users more comfortable with a more formalized support environment, other options exist. CommandPrompt Inc.'s PostgreSQL packages range from one-time incident support to 24x7 Web, e-mail and phone coverage. Recently, Pervasive Software Inc. jumped into the fray, offering various support packages in addition to consulting services. Open source services support company SpikeSource Inc. announced PostgreSQL support last summer, along with integration of the database into its SpikeSource Core Stack.
Reason #5: You (don't) get what you (don't) pay for
To put it simply, if you require a SQL standards-compliant database with all of the features found in any enterprise-class product and capable of storing terabytes of data while efficiently operating under heavy stress, chances are PostgreSQL will quite satisfactorily meet your needs. However, it doesn't come packaged in a nice box, nor will a sales representative stand outside your bedroom window after you download it.
For applications that require Oracle to even function properly, consider EnterpriseDB, a version of PostgreSQL, which has reimplemented features such as data types, triggers, views and cursors that copy Oracle's behavior. Just think of all the extra company coffee mugs you could purchase with the savings.
Click to see CLSQL, another library that works with PostgreSQL.
About the author: W. Jason Gilmore has developed countless Web applications over the past seven years and has dozens of articles to his credit on topics pertinent to Internet application development. He is the author of three books, including Beginning PHP 5 and MySQL 5: From Novice to Professional, (Apress) now in its second edition, and with co-author Robert Treat, Beginning PHP and PostgreSQL 8: From Novice to Professional (Apress).