Open source databases: Today’s viable alternative for enterprise computing

BrandPost By Daniel Williams, John Gunther
Aug 30, 2019
Data CenterIT Leadership

Enterprises looking for performance and savings are turning to open source. For much less money, major open source database management systems can provide as good or better data service and performance.

Credit: Bigstock

There was a time when businesses looked on all open source software with justifiable suspicion. This is no longer the case. Well-established open source products are available with all the support and capability of proprietary products, but at a fraction of the cost.

No one thinks twice anymore of relying on Linux, when the operating system is backed by a large and professional vendor such as Red Hat. Database software, perhaps the most critical and expensive infrastructure in an organization, has reached this point as well. Open source databases give you all that the technology has to offer with the reliability and efficiency you require — especially when you have the help of a partner steeped in experience with enterprise computing.

One example of an open source database is EDB Postgres. When adopted, you get the professional services that accompany it, along with all the advanced features, performance, and reliability of expensive, proprietary solutions at a fraction of the cost. Your TCO drops radically, potentially by more than 70%. As a result, IT budget may become available for projects that you couldn’t afford otherwise.

High-end database needs

Enterprises need databases that are reliable, highly available, scalable, and manageable. The developers of Postgres aimed high, at the needs of large enterprises with complex configurations..

Alone among the major open source database projects, Postgres aims to comply with the important standards such as ANSI/ISO SQL and to meet the high-end database needs of large enterprises. Multi-version concurrency control (MVCC) provides for concurrency without read locks and is part of how Postgres has been atomicity, consistency, isolation, durability (ACID)-compliant for many years. Postgres’s adherence to industry standards should also ease migration from proprietary systems, even to some non-Postgres database systems, if needed.

Database migration a major task

Migrating from one database platform to another is a major task and likely requires outside expertise, even if both comply broadly with standards. You’ll want to look for a partner that has sophisticated tools and a team of experts to assess which parts of your database and applications will migrate without modification. Migration can be automated for many key database aspects, including data definitions, stored procedures, packages, and the data itself. Complex enterprise applications use operating system and application-level programming interfaces like Microsoft’s .NET and ODBC, Oracle’s JDBC, OCI and Pro *C. EDB Postgres provides APIs that support key capabilities of these interfaces.

With any reasonably complex installation, automated tools are insufficient to take you all the way from an optimized solution on a complex, proprietary product like Oracle to an optimized solution on an open source product such as EDB Postgres. Engineers experienced in both products and migrations between them can give you a complete migration assessment that details the full inventory of affected assets along with cost and time estimates for completion of the migration. A consulting organization’s migration team can help analyze, design, and implement all of the elements in a cohesive migration process that meets specific business needs.

Optimized for the cloud

Cloud architecture is at the heart of any attempt to maximize computing performance and minimize cost. Use of public clouds may or may not be relevant to whether you should migrate to an open database platform. Open platforms are used widely in public and private clouds.

Open source database systems have been optimized to cloud architecture to a far greater degree than proprietary systems. In the case of EDB Postgres, you can get it as a managed database service on Amazon Web Services or as self-manageable, clusterable private instances in the public or private cloud of your choice.

Consumption model

Many workloads need to remain under IT control and on-premises for a variety of reasons. Privacy, regulation, cost, or governance concerns may make the use of a public cloud for some tasks impractical. This does not mean you need to give up all the benefits of cloud architecture.

The consumption model is one of the most attractive features of public clouds, but you can still get the benefits of it running workloads on-premises in a private cloud or non-cloud design by choosing consumption-priced, on-premises hosting and operations of your computing tasks. You pay for everything – including the hardware, software, support, and operations – on a consumption basis. In this way, even the most sensitive tasks can benefit from cloud economics and technology without taking the data out of your facilities.

Security and compliance

EDB Postgres was built to help users conform to the major regulatory compliance regimes, including the newly-enacted European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). EDB Postgres supports relevant features to make secure applications that protect data confidentiality according to policy, such as AES 512 bit cryptography, SSL certificates for strong authentication to a database, row-level security, strong audit support, and protections against SQL injection.

Attackers looking to access data don’t often try to crack the encryption; rather they try to work around it. This may involve finding or guessing passwords, finding unencrypted copies of the data, or exploiting a flaw in the security implementation. Secure implementation requires awareness at all stages of potential threats and taking measures to protect against them. Postgres gives you the tools to take these measures.

For instance, it offers encryption at many levels, flexibility in applying it, and developer facilities to optimize it:

  • Password storage encryption: Passwords should only ever be stored as hash values.
  • Encryption for specific columns: If only some fields need to be encrypted at rest, the client can supply the key and it is decrypted on the server.
  • Data partition encryption: This is generally an operating system capability of encryption of the full-disk, volume, or even at a block level.
  • Encrypting passwords across a network: Passwords are actually double-encrypted when transmitted across the network.
  • Encrypting data across a network: By default, all data sent across the network is encrypted with TLS.
  • SSL host authentication: Clients and servers can be required to use certificates to authenticate each other for maximum confidence.
  • Client-side encryption: If the server or its administrator is not to be trusted, the data can be encrypted and decrypted on the client and the server never sees clear text. This impedes the database’s ability to index and perform many other normal functions.

Calculate total cost of ownership

In the end, the software you use is a business decision just like any other. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is a complex calculation for something as strategic as a corporate database management system, but aspects of it aren’t that hard.

No up-front license costs for an open source database management system is going to improve TCO compared to a solution that charges high up-front license costs and then keeps charging you top dollar for maintenance. Keeping these two thing in mind, you can easily calculate the lowest TCO.

There was a time when proprietary solutions from well-capitalized software companies could be expected to provide superior solutions to those produced by a community of dedicated and talented developers. Just as Linux destroyed the market for expensive UNIX versions, open source database management systems like EDB Postgres are forcing Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, and other premium database management products to justify their pricing. With so many large, critical applications running reliably on open source products, it’s a hard case to make.

Consulting partners from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) can help you make the switch to reliable open source software, saving your enterprise money and increasing performance. Experts from HPE PointNext Services are available to design, implement, operate, and support your digital transformation.

To learn the latest insights about the trends and challenges of delivering IT services in the new hybrid cloud world, download the IDC whitepaper: Delivering IT Services in the New Hybrid Cloud: Extending the Cloud Experience Across the Enterprise.

© Copyright 2018, 2019 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Development LP. Original article first published on Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s digital publication “Enterprise.nxt”. Reproduced with permission.


About John Gunther

john gunther
John Gunther, multivendor portfolio manager for HPE Pointnext, has spent more than 10 years developing support services to assist customers with the regular operation, maintenance, and management of their IT environments. Previously, he was a business management and planning manager for the customer support center team.


About Daniel Williams

daniel williams
Daniel Williams is the worldwide strategic partner director, responsible for the integration between EnterpriseDB and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Daniel is responsible for the end-to-end alignment between both organizations, from contracting to operations to sales execution, which includes other worldwide strategic partnerships to help drive new initiatives or outcomes. He has been working in the tech and software market space for the past 10 years, with many key strategic partnerships in EMEA and worldwide.