The many faces of open source DBMS

I'd been planning a write-up anyway on the very different open source strategies of PostgreSQL-based EnterpriseDB, PostgreSQL-based Greenplum, and PostgreSQL-based Aster Data – not to mention more-or-less-PostgreSQL-based Netezza, Vertica, and ParAccel, Ingres-based DATAllegro, and MySQL-based Infobright. Then Infobright decided it was taking its analytic DBMS engine open source too – a very worthy move in its own right -- making the subject particularly timely. So here goes.

There are three basic ways open source can manifest itself in database management products. First, a DBMS can truly be open source. Products that can be had in true open source community editions, usually GPLed, include MySQL, PostgreSQL, EnterpriseDB's Postgres Plus, Infobright (in connection with MySQL), and a number of others. All the ones I mentioned except PostgreSQL come from specific companies that also offer enterprise/professional editions, on subscription, with or without additional closed-source features. (And EnterpriseDB/Postgres Plus is increasingly stepping into that role for PostgreSQL.)

Second, a wholly closed-source product can just incorporate some of an open source project, as a kick-start. That's what a lot of vendors have done with PostgreSQL. Greenplum has played a bit with giving back to the community – Bizgres and so on – but basically just took PostgreSQL and built a commercial product by much extending it. That's what ParAccel and Aster Data did too, but with even less attention paid to the PostgreSQL community. Meanwhile, Vertica used PostgreSQL as a design standard; so as to be compatible with lots of tools, it built a PostgreSQL-compatible product that didn't actually include any PostgreSQL code. And DATAllegro and Infobright built products in connection with the products and companies Ingres and MySQL respectively, before DATAllegro was bought by Microsoft and Infobright decided to go whole-hog open source itself.

Third, a DBMS – probably closed-source – can rely on non-database open source technologies. At their core, DBMS are big SQL interpreters. But for years, they have interpreted other languages as well, including Java, Perl, Python, and R, all of which were mentioned in the recent MapReduce announcements by Greenplum and Aster. Also common is for an appliance vendor to run a custom flavor of Linux, something that software-only DBMS vendor Exasol does as well.

Bottom line: Open source software is hugely important to database management, most especially in the vibrantly innovative market for high-end analytic DBMS.

Other posts today on open source DBMS

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022