How Postgres and Open Source Are Disrupting The Market for Database Management Systems


    Open source database management systems (OSDBMSs) have matured into viable alternatives to proprietary, commercial solutions. It comes as no surprise that OSDBMSs are not-so-subtly pushing proprietary solutions to the periphery. According to Gartner’s The State of Open Source RDBMS, 2015, the OSDBMS market is worth $562 million and has grown 31% year over year since 2013. By contrast, the overall market for database management solutions, valued by IDC to be over $50 billion by 2018, grew by only 5.4% year over year during that same period. In terms of market evolution, Gartner writes: “By 2018, more than 70% of new in-house applications will be developed on an OSDBMS, and 50% of existing relational DBMS instances will have been converted or will be in process.” Id. In other words, the entire definition of the database management system market will shift from commercial, closed-source DBMSs to OSDBMSs – a paradigm shift with decades of future staying power.

    According to Eric Raymond, a widely respected American software developer and open source advocate, computer software—so often said to be eating the world—is an increasingly critical factor in the world economy, and in strategic business calculations. He writes:

    Open source software is a big win for businesses, which are saving billions and passing that savings along to customers. . . . The open source movement is advancing because of feature-rich, high quality, reliable software with compelling economic benefits.

    Eric Raymond, The Cathedral & The Bazaar, at 170 (O’REILLY Books).

    This is not a new phenomenon in the history of open source. The ability to control expensive proprietary vendor cost with open source has been proven for Linux for operating systems; Xen and KVM for virtualization; and JBoss and Apache for middleware. Databases add a critical piece to the open source software stack, especially in face of the demands posed by big data.

    Boston-based EnterpriseDB (EDB) has been one of the leading players in the OSDBMS market since 2004. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the state of the OSDBMS market—and of industry-leading Postgres in particular—with EDB CEO Ed Boyajian.

    Question: Can you touch upon the difference in growth rates between the OSDBMS market and the overall DBMS market? What do you make of the dramatic difference in their growth curves?

    Ed Boyajian: It has been a remarkable few years of growth for open source in data management. I think there are three main reasons. First, traditional enterprise business models are transforming towards digital business models and the stunning innovation in open source data management revolves around this change. Second, companies demand the right price for the right enterprise-level technology. Cost matters. Given the rapid expansion of information and data in the enterprise, the question of price is more important than ever. Third, the companies behind these open source data management initiatives are maturing at an accelerating rate, giving CIOs and IT leaders the confidence they need to buy from them.

    Question: What if one of your giant competitors—a vendor of a proprietary DBMS, for example—were to share your vision of where the data management market is headed and decided that it too needed to offer an open source solution. This might include customers already steeped in its proprietary software, and perhaps even its entire stack. How difficult would it be for such a competitor to develop its own open source offerings?

    Ed Boyajian: This is an important topic and there are a couple of interesting aspects to this. From a technical perspective, any proprietary database vendor could assign engineers to work collaboratively in a large community, which is what all of us who are active contributors to open source projects do. To the extent that the company were willing to make that kind of resource commitment, it could participate in the OSDBMS market relatively easily. We see a number of companies doing that and I see great value in their contributions.


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