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Oracle DB admins urged to swap their gas guzzler for an electric car

Businesses can bet on open source – or at least use it as a threat

Postgres Vision At the Postgres Vision 16 conference taking place in San Francisco this week, Ed Boyajian, president and CEO of EnterpriseDB, tried to convince attendees to abandon their Hummers for electric cars.

Boyajian wasn't moonlighting for Tesla. Rather, he was peddling a metaphor in which expensive gas-guzzlers represent traditional database vendors like Oracle and trendy plug-in vehicles stand for the open source Postgres database.

EnterpriseDB offers software and services tied to Postgres. The company aspires to do for Postgres what Red Hat did for Linux – make it appealing to businesses. Its sponsorship of the Postgres Vision 16 conference and its launch of EDB Ark, a database-as-a-service offering for both public and private clouds, aim to advance that goal.

Boyajian didn't take the car comparison too far because it has limits. Oracle's databases don't pollute, at least any more than other software powered by the electrical grid. And Postgres doesn't perform worse in cold weather, as electric cars do.

But Boyajian came close. Describing the appeal of legacy software as an expensive but known quantity, he mentioned "the old adage you're not going to get fired for buying from company XYZ." The omission of a specific company name concealed the awkwardness of the reference – a decades-old adage more commonly phrased, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." As one of the event sponsors, IBM sought to be counted among the group of open-source-loving innovation leaders rather than the safe legacy laggards.

A few minutes later, IBM's Doug Balog, general manager of the company's POWER server business, took a turn onstage and made light of the comparison. Still, Boyajian's primary point – that Postgres can handle enterprise workloads at a lower cost than proprietary software – resonated with the audience.

As Infor COO Pam Murphy framed the situation during her brief stint on stage, her company's customers grew tired of vendor lock-in and the expense of licensing proprietary software. "Our customers were requiring us to make that change," she said.

An attendee from a Washington, DC, company echoed that sentiment during a later Q&A. "We've reached a point where we feel like [our proprietary database] limits our creativity," he said. "And there's also the licensing."

The setup for Boyajian's pitch involved the requisite Silicon Valley jargon, replete with words like "transformation" and "disruption." But the triteness of the terminology doesn't invalidate the real issues companies face as they try to remain competitive in markets undergoing profound technology-driven change.

Next page: The challenge

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