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EnterpriseDB says open source database saves big bucks

Open source databases have come a long way, offering potential savings and freedom from vendor lock-in.

By switching from proprietary to open source databases, FTD florists and Sony Online Entertainment have saved money and met business goals.

Ed Boyajian, the CEO of Westford, Mass.-based EnterpriseDB, cited these companies' experiences as two examples of successful Oracle migrations to EnterpriseDB's Postgres database systems during a workshop at the recent Red Hat Summit. In both these cases, EnterpriseDB has helped customers build out their IT infrastructure at significantly lower costs, he said.

"Databases are a compelling open source opportunity," and could represent the most disruptive open source technology of the next five years, said Boyajian, citing a "sharp escalation" of inquiries about open source databases at the Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc..

"IT is faced with increasing workloads with flat or declining budgets which becomes a basic economic problem," but also a great motivator for change during an economic downturn, he said.

Oracle's database, in contrast, is a "cash cow" that locks in customers because they can't separate their applications from its databases, Boyajian said.

Open source opportunity
Although MySQL remains the most popular open source database, EnterpriseDB's Postgres database applications are more robust and high performance, he said.

FTD, the online florist, for example, used Postgres Plus to carve out a separate business intelligence database from its Oracle production records, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars from an Oracle-based replication and improving performance by 400%, Boyajian said. The migration was completed in just six weeks, he added.

Sony Online Entertainment, another Oracle customer, launched a new micropayment-based girls' game, Free Realms on a Postgres Plus database last spring because it couldn't afford to run the low-margin game on Oracle, Boyajian said. After saving 80% on the database for the new Free Realms game with Postgres, Sony Online Entertainment decided to base all future games on Postgres instead of Oracle, he added.

In addition, a leading telecommunications provider is in the process of migrating several hundred systems from Oracle to Postgres, starting with sales and personnel and moving to billing and facilities over the next two or three years,. The company hops to save $90 million over the long term, Boyajian said.

The case studies impressed Craig Bogovich, a solutions architect from Wellesley, Mass.-based Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, who said his medical insurance firm is "aggressively pursuing open source solutions to save money" and would probably consider EnterpriseDB.

"We're very happy with Red Hat and commodity computing and have aggressively moved off HP-UX and RISC processors since 2004," Bogovich said. "Our biggest challenge is third-party applications. We are sticklers in making sure that all applications are fully certified" for the database, he said.

Boyajian's figures show substantial savings for PostgreSQL vs. proprietary vendors. The PostgreSQL enterprise edition is free, while IBM costs $582,400 initially for a three-year license for eight two-socket servers and Oracle costs $760,000 upfront. Annual maintenance for these same eight servers is $215,760 for EnterpriseDB, $349,440 for IBM and $501,600 for Oracle, he said.

"Each major technology company has its own stacks, making it harder to tear them apart," Boyajian said. "Open source stacks are designed to give you freedom. They give a lot of control back to you."

Closing the gap on performance
But freedom can still come with performance tradeoffs that open source databases have yet to overcome. Still, some IT pros say that open source has made gains. Craig Mullins, the vice president data strategy at Sugar Land, Texas-based Neon Enterprise Software, said that open source database companies like EnterpriseDB are "closing the gap" with proprietary vendors in database functionality but still lag in tools for managing performance, changing the database and conducting backup and recovery, tools that took the big vendors years to develop, he said.

EnterpriseDB has done "a very nice job" of enabling PostgreSQL to run Oracle applications, which simplifies application development and maintenance, but the gap in tools could make it harder for the databases and applications to meet performance requirements in service-level agreements, he said.

Boyajian said that PostgreSQL's community-based development, which stretches back more than 20 years to the University of California's Berkeley campus, has better quality assurance than do vendor-backed products given its active volunteer input. Postgres does suffer from lack of promotion due to its community roots, a problem EnterpriseDB has attempted to remedy, he said. The 5-year-old, venture-backed company, whose investors include IBM and Sony, has accumulated hundreds of customers and doubled its revenues every year but is not yet profitable, Boyajian said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Contributor.

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