The rise of Open Source Databases

By April 4, 2019

After many years of working in the IT industry, both as an IT manager in a large telecommunications setup and as a consultant providing solutions to my clients, I’ve come to see a huge interest among users in leveraging more open source software and standards. It comes as no surprise to me that the adoption of Open Source Databases (OSDB) among global organizations is growing rapidly. The use of OSDBs offers tremendous opportunities that significantly reduce database license costs without compromising on the features and functions of structured or unstructured data. Running an OSDB on IBM Power Systems brings even more advantage with performance, memory and bandwidth.

Historically, organizations have worked with various enterprise Database Management Systems (DBMS) such as Oracle and MySQL. These transactional databases saw substantial growth and success due to the fact that at that time most organizations were developing their core applications, where consistency, availability and resilience were key requirements.

We are now witnessing a shift toward OSDBs, and I see two major reasons for this.

  • First, the overall total cost of ownership for an OSDB such as Enterprise Database (EDB) or PostgreSQL is considerably lower than that of a commercial database, consequently reducing database license costs.
  • Second, digital initiatives, such as mobile, analytics and social platforms, must process large amounts of unstructured data, and in scenarios like this, an OSDB can offer a wide range of choices.

Recently, IBM undertook a Next Generation Infrastructure (NGI) project for a multinational financial corporation aiming to enhance its web presence. To achieve this, IBM supported the client to undergo a transition to open source based applications on Linux on Power. IBM also helped the client port many of its software packages that weren’t formally supported on RHEL v7.1. As a result, the client achieved a clear price-performance advantage over x86 Linux solutions with robust reliable and scalable platform for mission-critical workloads.

The results are real, but you must have a thoughtful strategy and the right support.

Choosing the right OSDB

When considering replacing a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS), the question of which OSDB is the right fit arises. Two major OSDBs are supported by the open community: PostgreSQL and MariaDB, both of which are a drop-in replacement for MySQL.

PostgreSQL is the world’s most advanced OSDB and has been meticulously developed by a vibrant open source community for more than 30 years. IBM Power Systems provides better performance with respect to processor, memory and enterprise class features (see “IBM Power Systems: Best Choice for open source DBs” to learn more) for supporting any online analytical processing (OLAP) and online transaction processing (OLTP) workloads.

EnterpriseDB is a software company that provides add-on functionalities and services over PostgreSQL with offerings such as EDB Postgres Enterprise Manager and EDB Postgres Enterprise Replication. In addition, EnterpriseDB has developed utilities similar to that of Oracle, such as EDB*Plus, EDB*Loader, a dictionary and views as well as excellent PL/SQL and Pro*C support. It is these characteristics that open a possibility for clients to make a smooth transition from existing databases to EDB Postgres Advanced Server.

IBM has a well-defined approach on modern-day OSDB data platforms based on three key initiatives:

  • Open relational database
  • Open NoSQL/unstructured database
  • Big data Hadoop solution

Open relational databases are a primary focus for IBM, especially since many organizations are aiming to reduce RDBMS license costs, which consequently makes EnterpriseDB Postgres Advanced Server a competitive alternative that provides high quality enterprise application-level support and capabilities.

Perhaps the most common question I get asked in this regard is, what are the best applications to run on EnterpriseDB? Any new applications developed for the web and mobile, custom applications, Independent Software Vendor applications (that support EDB/PostgreSQL), custom code written in Java, Proc*C, PL/SQL, C/C++ and online transaction processing (OLTP) applications are the right candidates for migrating to EnterpriseDB. I wouldn’t recommend migrating applications such as eBusiness Suite, SAP and traditional applications that use RDBMS special functions and ISV applications, unless they support EDB/OSDB.

Optimizing license costs

To optimize commercial database licenses costs, I suggest the following options:

Option 1: If you wish to continue using a commercial database for your existing and new application requirements, consider making changes at the server, storage, virtualization, database and application level. It is important to note that IBM Power Systems and IBM Flash Storage have helped many of our clients reduce license costs significantly.

Option 2: You can always try to leverage the OSDB in the new application environment and continue to use the commercial database for your existing applications.

Option 3: Migrate existing applications from the commercial database to an OSDB of your choice. For new applications, use a specialized NoSQL database like graph or document store, whichever suits your application requirement along with the open source RDBMS of your choice.

Support and further resources

IBM Systems Lab Services helps clients identify the applications suitable for OSDBs. Lab Services has developed an Open Source Migration Assistance Workshop where our consultants work cohesively alongside your team to support and effectively deliver key aspects of a migration from any commercial database to an OSDB.

Clients and partners can reach out to IBM Systems Lab Services to organize a workshop and for technical support.

You can visit IBM Systems and EnterpriseDB solution brief and the Open Source Database on Linux on Power community for more details on the topic.