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Volume 20, Number 29 -- August 22, 2011

EnterpriseDB Sets Sights on Oracle's MySQL

Corrected: August 22, 2011

by Alex Woodie

It's no secret that EnterpriseDB, the company that sells and supports commercial versions of the open source PostgreSQL database, is going after MySQL. The company, which says revenues are growing at a 2X annual pace, senses that Oracle is ostracizing its MySQL customers and partners--something that IBM i customers can relate to. But while PostgreSQL makes inroads in the X64 and Itanium markets, it's not clear if the database will find a similar reception in Power Systems.

MySQL is undoubtedly one of the commercial open source success stories of the last decade. The open source RDBMS found a comfortable niche as a key component of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP or Perl or Python) stack that became so popular for running Web applications as well as for embedded applications. There are 12 million active MySQL installations today, according to www.mysql.com.

But Oracle doesn't appear to be too keen to grow MySQL, which it obtained as part of its Sun Microsystems acquisition in January 2010. After all, Oracle reaps a good chunk of its revenue from selling its eponymous RDBMS. Letting the stops loose on MySQL would, almost by necessity, damage sales of the Oracle database, and therefore decrease profits for the software giant.

As a result, Oracle keeps MySQL on a short leash. This has manifested in decisions that seem to not make much business sense, unless viewed through the Oracle competition prism. IBM i shops are undoubtedly aware of Oracle's November announcement to end support and development of MySQL on IBM i, as well as on AIX 5.3 and on several older Linux releases. The wider IT world couldn't care less about what happens in IBM i-land, but Oracle's March decision to end all software development for Itanium, which a lawsuit from Hewlett-Packard, has put the spotlight on Oracle's competitive tactics.

Battling Big Red

Oracle's aspirations to build its own integrated stack, as well as new functionality that the PostgreSQL community have built into the RDMBS, have combined to create a "perfect storm" of opportunity for PostgreSQL, says Sean Doherty, vice president of business development for EnterpriseDB, the Bedford, Massachusetts, company that participates in the PostgreSQL community and also sells and supports its own version, called Postgres Plus Advanced Server.

"Customers are looking for ways to leave Oracle, because they can't stand being attached to them in so many different ways," Doherty tells IT Jungle. "But at the same time, you've seen over the last couple years, and 12 months in particular, a really improved distribution, and a consistent distribution, from PostgreSQL. The last release, 9.0, came out in September, and included some really great functionality, including streaming replication and hot standby."

The enhancements have brought PostgreSQL functionality "up to par, or even better than MySQL, for MySQL's niche in the market," Doherty continues. "You have a lot more capabilities on the read-write transaction applications, where MySQL kind of falls off a cliff from a performance perspective, when you have too many users or transactions. You get the best of both worlds--great read performance and great read/write performance that you wouldn't otherwise get from MySQL."

You could spend all day arguing which database is technically better, but the fact is that PostgreSQL doesn't really need to prove its bona fides. The database, which is a follow-on to the Ingres database (hence the name, post-gres) has been in development for more than 15 years. It's the database behind some pretty well-known websites and Web apps, including Yahoo and Skype (now owned by Microsoft). The Federal Aviation Administrations' air traffic control system runs on PostgreSQL. There are benchmarks that show its speed.

The primary challenge that EnterpriseDB faces for growing commercial use of PostgreSQL is a business one. And in this respect, the folks at EnterpriseDB are hard at work trying to sculpt an environment that is conducive to growth. It's also mimicking MySQL where it can, to take over the position in the open source database market that it sees Oracle leaving.

Oracle's decision to kill all software development for Itanium meshed nicely with the year-old partnership EnterpriseDB has with HP. And the fact that Postgres Plus Advanced Server 9.0, which shipped in late June, added support for HP-UX gives EnterpriseDB a nice story to tell disaffected customers who are running Oracle database on HP-UX- and Itanium-based Integrity servers.

Apple, interestingly, is the latest vendor to ditch MySQL. And in the latest "Lion" release of OS X, the vendor replaced an implementation MySQL with PostgreSQL, according to EnterpriseDB.

Karen Tegan Padir, vice president of product marketing for EnterpriseDB, thinks the openness of the PostgreSQL development process and its more permissive license played a factor in Apple's decision. "We're not like MySQL, owning all the source code, keeping all development behind a firewall, shipping stuff out via GPL, and making releases when we feel like it," she says. The PostgreSQL license and development process is more open, she says.

The fact that PostgreSQL is shipped with all major releases of Linux distributions, including Red Hat and SUSE enterprise Linuxes, gives the database good coverage. (It's also included in Oracle's Unbreakable Linux, as it turns out.)

IBM has an interesting relationship with PostgreSQL. On the one hand, IBM is a committing member of PostgreSQL and an investor in EnterpriseDB. PostgreSQL is the embedded database engine in the Netezza data warehousing appliance that IBM bought last year; it's similarly embedded in other data appliances, too. IBM has also licensed a key component of EnterpriseDB's Postgres Plus Advanced Server that pulls data out of Oracle databases. IBM now includes a modified version of that feature in DB2 for Linux, Unix, and Windows (formerly DB2 UDB) with the intent of poaching Oracle customers and easing the transition to DB2.

PostgreSQL on Power

PostgreSQL clearly sees the biggest use in the Wintel and Lintel world, but it is supported on Linux on Power as well. In fact, it is quite easy to get PostgreSQL running on Power Linux thanks to the fancy "one click" install that EnterpriseDB has developed and supported for its open source cousin. The one-click install, which EnterpriseDB developed so that admins didn't have to go through the time and effort of assembling the database from source code, is available for all the major operating systems, such as Red Hat and SUSE Linuxes and Windows. But there is no one-click install for AIX, which is officially supported by PostgreSQL, but not on EnterpriseDB's Postgres Plus Advanced Server.

EnterpriseDB and IBM have had discussions about making PostgreSQL a more mainstream database on the Power Systems server, specifically for AIX. There is currently no official build for IBM i from either PostgreSQL or EnterpriseDB's Postgres Plus Advanced Server.

"We're in constant discussion [with IBM] about what we should be doing next and what we can be doing more of together," Doherty says. "Most interest has come out of Asia for IBM. But to be frank, most of it has been around running Postgres Plus Advanced Server on Linux on Power machines. We haven't really talked about i very much. There has been discussion about AIX."

That doesn't mean you can't run PostgreSQL on IBM i. The open-source loving Young i Professionals have posted a tutorial on the YIPS website that tells you how to load PostgreSQL on the IBM i OS. Of course, it's not certified or officially supported, which may still be a problem for some IBM i shops.

Open Source Momentum Growing

At this point in the race, it appears that PostgreSQL is at the same point in the IBM i adoption curve that MySQL was before it became just the second RDMBS to ever be officially supported on the platform in 2007. Back then, it took serious confidence for a System i pro to venture outside of the protected confines of the IBM ecosystem into the big, scary open source world.

We are at a different place today, and open source products, such as MySQL, Joomla, Drupal, and SugarCRM--not to mention Apache--are routinely deployed on the OS. The allergic reaction that many IBM i shops used to display at the mere mention of the words "open source" is fading, as organizations discover all kinds of really useful and even stable applications that they can get for next to nothing.

IBM and its PHP partner, Zend Technology, are expected to address the MySQL-on-IBM i support problem that Oracle caused, but as of now, there is no solution. (The smart money is that an announcement will come at the ZendCon conference in October.) In any event, the folks at Zend don't see any reason to work on replacing MySQL with PostgreSQL. They've put a lot of work into MySQL on IBM i, and don't want to replicate it.

Just the same, there appears to be a move underfoot by PHP-based open source projects to at least give customers the option of moving to PostgreSQL. Joomla, in particular, is planning to support PostgreSQL with the next major release of its CMS late this year, member of the Joomla project recently told IT Jungle.

Expanding the PostgreSQL ecosystem is a big part of Doherty's job. "We've seen some pickup [in ISV adoption of PostgreSQL], but we obviously want more," he says. "I think the work we've done with HP and the work that we continue to do with Red Hat, Alfresco and Jaspersoft , will help with getting ISVs certified to run their applications on PostgreSQL."

The folks at EnterpriseDB are also courting the data engine providers that played so heavily in the MySQL ecosystem. EnterpriseDB is in negotiations with several data engine providers at the moment, Doherty says. Some of these vendors signed five-year renewals right before Oracle acquired MySQL. "So they have four years left, and they're trying to find a solution off it now, knowing that, if they wait too long, they'll be stuck with a 3X or 5X increase in OEM pricing that they're paying MySQL that they'll end up paying Oracle at renewal time."


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Sun Picks EnterpriseDB to Backup PostgreSQL Support in Solaris

PostgreSQL Database Now Runs Natively on Windows


This article was corrected. IBM has licensed EnterpriseDB's Oracle database compatibility technology, not the xDB feature. IT Jungle regrets the error.



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