Eye on Oracle

Dec 23 2009   5:24PM GMT

Postgres overlooked by the EC in the Oracle-Sun deal

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

With Oracle and the European Commission (EC) on the verge of reaching agreement over the former’s proposed possession of MySQL, hopefully this is the last time I talk about the latter’s confounding lack of understanding about the open source market.

While the EC has now spent well over three months investigating the dangers of Oracle owning both the leading proprietary and open source databases fearing it would use its monopoly position for evil, their answer for achieving competitive balance in the market was out in plain view.

In a word that answer is Postgres. The Postgres open source database is not only a respected competitor in the open source database market, but has a feature set that allows it to compete against some higher-end proprietary database.

“If their (EC’s) goal is to promote competitiveness and have a truly independent open source project with hundreds of thousands of users that serves as an alternative to Oracle they should focus on Postgres,” said Ed Boyajian, EnterpriseDB’s President and CEO.

Granted, EnterpriseDB may be the biggest supporter of Postgres and has built its business around the product. But Boyajian makes a couple of important points as to why Postgres can keep democracy alive in the open source database market.

For instance, from the start MySQL was built to accommodate the creation of lightweight, Web-based apps developers can use to create using scripting languages, it was hardly meant to create applications capable of handling heavy duty workloads.

“MySQL helped create apps that were read intensive, Web-based, not the sort of apps created by traditional corporate developers who work with C and C++ and Java. The fact is MySQL never competed with Oracle for that type of workload,” Boyajian said.

Postgres on the other hand is designed to create true enterprise-class applications that require concurrency and data consistency, according to Boyajian, the kind of applications that can give Oracle and IBM a run for its money.

“This is not a subtle thing to the people in the database market, but it looks to be a subtlety to the EC. This is something they are not fully understanding in this investigation,” Boyajian said.

What bolstered Postgres’ position as a strong alternative to MySQL is the recent investment by IBM in Enterprise DB. With IBM’s backing — a major competitor to Oracle in the proprietary database market and strong supporter of open source – Postgres future looks pretty secure.

The other distinction the EC has seemed to overlook, Boyajian notes, is the basic fact there are two kinds of open source companies: those that are community controlled and so truly independent like Postgres, Apache and Linux; and those which are commercially sponsored such as MySQL and JBoss.

This is not to say a commercially sponsored open source product can’t be successful.  After all the creators of MySQL sold it to Sun for $1 billion, but it will be better for users to have an alternative that doesn’t come with a Big Brother lurking over its shoulder.

Let’s hope with the dawning of the New Year, the EC confirms reports last week’s reports it has come to some meaningful compromise with Oracle so we can save jobs at Sun, stimulate competition among enterprise competitors, and put all this nonsense behind us.

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