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EnterpriseDB Commercializes Open-Source PostgreSQL

There's a new player in the open-source database game. Startup EnterpriseDB emerged from stealth mode last month to launch the first public beta of its flagship product, a PostgreSQL-based database management system: EnterpriseDB 2005.

With EDB2005, the company set out to improve on the venerable open-source DBMS with enterprise-targeted features, including compatibility with many applications written for Oracle and SQL Server databases. This capability is implemented through compatible SQL syntax, data types, triggers and native stored procedures.

PostgreSQL offers an alternative to other open-source systems, such as MySQL and Firebird, and competes with proprietary systems venders such as Oracle, Sybase, IBM and Microsoft.

The open-source DBMS has been around in one form or another for about 20 years. It emerged from the POSTGRES project, a database research project directed by Michael Stonebraker at the University of California at Berkeley in the mid-1980s. Stonebraker had also lead the groundbreaking INGRES (Interactive Graphics and Retrieval System) project, which, along with System R from IBM, revolutionized database systems by allowing data to be accessed through a high-level language. (POSTGRES stands for post-INGRES.)

In the early 1990s, the POSTGRES project ended at Berkeley, but the school had released the system under the BSD license, which allowed open-source developers to continue developing it. In 1994, two Berkeley graduate students, Andrew Yu and Jolly Chen, added a SQL language interpreter to Postgres, which eventually lead to a renaming of the project: PostgreSQL.

"It's great technology," says Andy Astor, CEO and co-founder of EnterpriseDB, "but it's never had a phone number."

In fact, EnterpriseDB isn't the first company to offer a commercial version of PostgreSQL. Earlier this year, GreenPlum began using PostgreSQL to build a database optimized for large-scale analytics. Also earlier this year, Pervasive Software began offering support services for the database.

IBM released its Cloudscape Java embedded DB to open source last year. Computer Associates did the same with its Ingres database. And Sun Microsystems has said that it will offer an open-source database called SunDB.

But all of that is good news to Astor. "Now that mainstream companies understand that open source is not about software with no cost, but actually about getting better-quality software, they are very interested in exploring their options," he says.

Astor believes that the software industry is now in the midst of a fundamental shift around open source. "We’re seeing the beginning of a series of new business models," he says, "of which EDB2005 is one. Today you’ve got an open-source base that is absolutely fantastic in terms of the quality of the code, the cost of the acquisition of that code and the breadth of the skill sets, because so many have worked on it. Commercial entities are building on top of that base and delivering products with a cost structure and within a time frame that simply wasn’t possible before."

The EnterpriseDB 2005 beta is available for download from www.enterprisedb.com. The beta is free, and includes support. The company will begin charging for the product when it goes GA sometime later this summer.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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