“The independence of a community is important for a successful open source project”

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There is no harm if a company works closely with the open source community, but if it starts dominating the community… that could be detrimental. EnterpriseDB believes in this philosophy to the core and the results can be seen in the success of PostgreSQL as a database. Diksha P Gupta from Open Source For You spoke to Radhika Samant, CFO, EnterpriseDB on what it takes to maintain the right balance between a company and an open source community. Excerpts of the conversation are shared here.

  • When should an IT manager ideally think about open source technology?

Today, a major concern for IT managers is their budget constraints. Open source has been around for a while and Red Hat has a huge success story to support that. In the database space, open source is beginning to gain a lot of momentum right now across the globe and is building a base for itself in the government space, in Fortune 500 companies, et al. We see open source databases being adopted by a wide range of users who are looking at it as a means of reducing their budgetary requirements as well as from a control standpoint. They now want to really go away from the excessively proprietary infrastructure and get into an open source domain where they can have better control. Yet another thing that I want to highlight is the concept of open source. One can’t really adopt open source in a mission critical or, for that matter, a non-mission critical environment without a big company supporting it. In the database space, with Postgres being such a good contender, there is a huge demand and EnterpriseDB is emerging as that leader. It is opening up a whole new opportunity for IT professionals to look at and a whole new way to think about databases.

  • Of course one cannot deny that PostgreSQL is emerging as one of the most competitive players. At one point in time, Monty Widenius, founder of MySQL, said “…it’s time to seriously review how MySQL server is being developed and change the development model to be more like …PostgreSQL.” What do you think could have prompted him to make a statement like that?

The Postgres community is remarkably strong and independent with many developers and companies supporting the creation of the technology. This fosters a very healthy open source project. It removes the possibility of an acquisition of a particular company or the possibility of taking away the independent nature of that database. Just like Linux, this makes PostgreSQL a more compelling and attractive technology for business’ and government to use.

  • What do you think are the basic differences between the two development models of MySQL and PostgreSQL?  

The most obvious and important difference is that the MySQL brand was predominantly owned and managed by a single company. The community of contributors and developers was also predominantly made up of MySQL (and now Oracle) employees. PostgreSQL on the other hand consists of thousands of independent contributors and companies. We follow something like the Red Hat model in how we work with the PostgreSQL community, in that we support the development of many community features and employ a number of community leaders and contributors. The main advantage I think is it should provide to all users of PostgreSQL a sense of comfort that it is an open source project, which is independent.

  • Can you please elaborate on EnterpriseDB’s Postgres Plus product family?
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EnterpriseDB originally started with a vision of providing database users a lower cost alternative to Oracle and other proprietary databases. Postgres Plus Advanced Server is EnterpriseDB’s flagship product and allows relatively easy migration off Oracle by allowing applications running on Oracle databases to run on Postgres Plus Advanced Server with minimal effort. Postgres Plus Advanced Server always remains in synch with the community project and incorporates additional features required by our enterprise customers. It is also fast becoming the database of choice for new application developments.

In addition, the company also has a very strong presence in the support of PostgreSQL itself. We offer support subscriptions and services to companies that want to use open source and open source products around PostgreSQL. We have a lot of tools, including Postgres Enterprise manager and Postgres Plus Cloud Database, all of which have been developed around PostgreSQL to enhance the usage, depending upon what your needs are. What EnterpriseDB does is that it allows companies to enjoy much lower costs afforded by open source based products while retaining the security of Enterprise class support. We are taking a community project to the companies looking to adopt solutions that they can have a control over, in a cost-friendly way.

  • To what extent can a company get involved in an open source project, before which the independence of the community gets compromised?

We, as a company, make sure that we support and contribute to the independence of the community because we are very cognizant of the fact that EnterpriseDB without the community, its contribution and its creations, would not provide the same value to our customers. The community is an important part of who we are. The way that the company provides support to the community is by employing some of its key members. There are many companies which do that. We are one of them. We also enable our employees to give some of their time to developing community projects, which are open source and available to all. In that process, we also see how enterprise needs are met. The enterprise need is often driven by specific requirements related to the nature of the project. We discuss our insights into these issues with the community members.

If a customer needs features or technologies that are not on the community roadmap then we often develop the changes and offer them to customers. EnterpriseDB has a lot of database expertise within the company itself. Working closely with the community is very important for us. I compliment the community for the way it thinks and works, because its members do not get influenced by any one company at the end of the day. Any company being able to take over the community or impose its will on a community, rather than working in a collaborative manner, is actually detrimental to the community. We are proud of our approach to working with the community.

  • Can you elaborate on some of your initiatives to involve developers in the community so that the product evolves well?

We do a lot of evangelising. As you are aware, PostgreSQL has been able to establish itself well in the market, and anyone who wants to develop a project should be aware of the PostgreSQL database. We sponsor a lot of events around PostgreSQL to make sure that there is enough buzz about the project. We are launching training programmes across the globe, especially in India, which is a unique place where we have a lot of engineering talent that is always looking out for new technologies. We are getting into colleges and are offering training courses to help students understand PostgreSQL. Today, the college curriculum does not have PostgreSQL incorporated. We are also talking to government agencies, who prepare a lot of database curriculum for government organisations. We are having continuous conversations on introducing PostgreSQL into the curriculum, so that students coming out of colleges already know the technology. Given the fact that adoption of PostgreSQL is increasing, this will make the talent ready for the technology and also create employment opportunities.

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