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Microsoft grabs Citus Data, expands Azure open source options

Microsoft's acquisition of Citus Data adds a distributed architecture for PostgreSQL on Azure and expands the cloud platform's array of open source software.

Microsoft's purchase of Citus Data this week enriches the array of cloud database services available on Azure, and further boosts Microsoft's open source credentials.

Citus Data's product builds on PostgreSQL to make it a distributed data store. It's an extension to PostgreSQL, not a separate fork, which preserves the scalability and performance of the distributed architecture and keeps pace with advancements in the core PostgreSQL codebase, Microsoft said.

Deployment options for Citus Data include a managed cloud service and on-premises installation. Microsoft added a managed version of PostgreSQL to Azure last year, and hopes Citus Data will spark more business there.

Ideal use cases for Citus Data are multi-tenant SaaS applications and real-time analytics over very large data sets, Microsoft said. Terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed.

PostgreSQL's allure may pull cloud customers to Azure

While Microsoft has made plenty of investments to shore up its proprietary SQL Server on Azure, its open source database lineup is also substantial, with managed services for MySQL and MariaDB along with PostgreSQL.

Microsoft added a managed version of PostgreSQL to Azure last year, and hopes Citus Data will spark more business there.

Microsoft also made waves in 2016 when it ported SQL Server to Linux, a move that would have been unthinkable in a different era at Redmond.

For Citus Data, the acquisition represents a positive outcome after struggling for eight years to find a commercial sweet spot.

The company came late to the market with its original strategy to develop a massively parallel processing (MPP) database with distributed workloads across many PostgreSQL instances and modify PostgreSQL as needed, said Curt Monash, an analyst at Monash Research in Acton, Mass. However, "Greenplum, Aster Data et al. got there first," he said.

Also, like Heroku and EnterpriseDB, Citus discovered customers wanted to run PostgreSQL in smaller implementations -- likely to avoid vendor licenses, he said.

Doug Henschen, analyst, Constellation ResearchDoug Henschen

Still, because of its popularity, PostgreSQL is now available as a service on every major public cloud. It's not on Oracle's cloud, however, because it's an obvious alternative to Oracle's flagship proprietary database, said Doug Henschen, an analyst at Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif.

Exactly how Citus fits into the PostgreSQL mix on Azure remains to be seen. "I don't see as much emphasis [from the company] on high-scale transactional workloads and Oracle compatibility, which has been a core focus of [PostgreSQL-oriented] EnterpriseDB," Henschen said.

Other questions remain about Citus Data's future under Microsoft ownership. In a blog post, the company's co-founders pledged to continue contributions to the main PostgreSQL project and support existing customers.

Also, it's unclear whether Citus Cloud customers will have to switch platforms. Right now, the managed database service is hosted by AWS, not Azure, according to Citus Data's website.

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