How open source databases drive rapid innovation

In 2020, the speed of data transmission and transactions became critical, as consumers dramatically increased their use of online services for things like shopping, healthcare and entertainment. Businesses rapidly adapted to this changing behaviour and the market uncertainties that came with it.

The ability to quickly pivot in response to rapid change under very tight timelines was once almost unimaginable, but companies that are data-driven thrived. A study by Tableau and YouGov among IT decision-makers in Singapore, Australia, India and Japan, found that 82% of data-driven companies derived critical advantages during the pandemic by making faster strategic decisions and by making their businesses more agile.

Rapid technological innovation works best when data is easily accessible, and enterprises are best served when they adopt modern technologies like open source database software.

Open source databases enable fast development and deployment

In a Red Hat survey, 52% of Asia-Pacific (APAC) respondents said they use open source databases, highlighting the prominence of open source in the region. Unlike proprietary databases, open source databases enable developers to ‘fail fast’, a concept in DevOps and agile, whereby developers work with small increments of code that allow them to detect problems early and fix them while still in development. Open source databases enable developers to rapidly try new capabilities that speed innovation and improve the efficiency of their projects.

Developers can also take advantage of specific database capabilities to release their product onto the market more quickly. Yet, due to concerns about vendor or platform lock-in, many do not leverage these capabilities and end up writing a lot more code than they should, which lowers performance.

Open source database software such as PostgreSQL offer developers all the features required for agile development. These features include a rich data type library with Geographic Information System (GIS) data and the JSONB data type, which helps with personalisation. Postgres runs everywhere – on the cloud, data center, in containers, or on your laptop. Moreover, enterprises can choose to get support from any vendor, or no vendor at all. Hence, when an organisation commits to Postgres, they are not locked into a vendor, cloud or cost model.

Another attractive feature of Postgres is that, using a feature called ‘Foreign Data Wrappers,’ it can absorb data from multiple sources (Oracle, SQL server etc.) to combine structured and unstructured data—such as sales orders and invoices, web activity, product management reports, or supply chain information—without sacrificing ACID compliance. This means organisations may generate better insights from integrating data from the various data management technologies they currently use. Other characteristics that Postgres supports include standard architectures, built in security and compliance, repeatable automation, version control, and management at scale.

A very popular choice among enterprises, Postgres has been recognised as Database Management System (DBMS) of 2020, and is one of the most commonly used and loved database management systems by developers worldwide.

Choose community driven open source for continuous innovation

While open source is often thought to be free, public and collaborative, not all open source databases are built the same. Many open source projects are led by individual, commercial vendors who control the project from funding to development and determine its future. This means if the company fails, so does the project, thus affecting those organisations that rely on it. In some cases,  the vendor may also switch to a profit model as a means of surviving in a competitive open source market. They may also change their licensing agreement and costs. Such changes may create concerns about the reliability of using this brand of open source, as well as about restrictions on the number of features and capabilities they’ll continue to get without buying the licensed version.

Community driven open source, however, helps to overcome these challenges. PostgreSQL is run by a community of developers from cloud providers to commercial vendors, and prevents sole control of the software through internal rules and a permissive open source license. Importantly, the motivation for developers to contribute comes from adding value to sustain innovation and resilience over profitability. For instance, the strength of the Postgres community contributed significantly to the development of foreign data wrappers mentioned above, a unique value proposition to Postgres.

Red Hat also found that there are still some “perceived barriers” to open source software adoption in the Asia Pacific, such as the security of code (42%), lack of internal skills (37%), and level of support (37%). Commercial vendors with Postgres expertise can help enterprises overcome these challenges to get the most out of the open source technology wherever it’s deployed.

By Vibhor Kumar, Vice President, Performance Engineering, EDB

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