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Top open source database advantages for enterprises

Open source databases typically offer lower upfront costs and more community support and, in recent years, have offered strong competition to commercial database offerings.

Many IT industry professionals use DB-Engines to track the popularity of database products. The ranking criteria includes measuring the number of references to different products on industry websites, Google searches, job postings, user profiles, and professional and social networks.

According to DB-Engines' research, open source databases have recently surpassed their commercial counterparts in popularity.

It's important to note that web popularity does not equate to market share and industry-leading sales revenues. Top commercial products such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle's Autonomous Database continue to lead all vendors, including open source database products. But there has been a rise in open source database adoption, creating some competition for proprietary databases.

Open source database popularity

Open source database distributions use an open source software licensing model that varies in distribution restrictions. Open Source generally refers to programs with source code that's available for users to freely modify and use as they see fit. Open source database advantages include lower upfront licensing and ongoing maintenance costs than most commercial database management system (DBMS) offerings.

But open source does not always mean the product is totally free. Many vendors provide base functionality in their free, open source offerings and a higher level of features in versions that have upfront purchase costs or require subscription-based support contracts.

The key differentiator is that the upfront licensing and ongoing maintenance costs are often much lower than commercial competitors.

Enterprise-grade support services

When compared to commercial competitors, open source databases were historically characterized as niche offerings with limited features, functionality and vendor support. As a result, organizations would shy away from open source databases that were not commercially supported.

There wasn't a stable, mature vendor they could rely on for product support, patches and upgrades. Data professionals felt uncomfortable implementing critical or mission-critical applications that were crowd-supported.

But whenever there are gaps in the IT industry, there are enterprising vendors that quickly provide offerings. Over the years, a growing number of service providers have stepped in to provide 24/7 support for open source database products.

In addition, with the ever-increasing interest in database as a service (DBaaS) platforms that inherently provide 24/7 database back-end support as part of their offering, you'll be hard pressed to find an open source DBMS product that doesn't have multiple support options.

Competing head to head with commercial products

All database vendors know they must add new features to remain competitive. A hot open source and commercial database market compels vendors to maximize their products' inherent feature set. Open source database advantages include constant innovation and integration of new features that differentiate products from other vendors -- a requirement for their competitive survival.

A good example of open source vendor competitive mindset is EnterpriseDB. It markets its Postgres Advanced Server product as a cost-effective alternative to Oracle. EnterpriseDB advertises that its product provides a deep level of compatibility with Oracle features, including support for the PL/SQL procedural language, SQL extensions, functions, packages and replication, as well as Oracle-like tools that make migrating to the open source platform easier.

Greater choice of platforms, data models and vendors

Another open source database advantage is that unlike commercial databases, which are usually offered and supported by the product manufacturers, you'll find a wide range of vendors that provide open source database software or fully managed DBaaS platforms.

Well-known industry heavyweights are capitalizing on the rise in popularity of open source database systems. Mega-vendors that include Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Oracle continue attempting to co-opt technology that challenges their dominant roles in the industry.

Their strategies are typically to offer their own versions of open source database platforms or ensure the technologies used in open source databases become components of -- not replacements for -- their database offerings.

Here's a quick, non-inclusive list of examples:

  • Amazon leads the pack in managed open source database products. Its offerings include MySQL, MariaDB and PostgreSQL. Amazon has also integrated MySQL and PostgreSQL capabilities into its Aurora database and MongoDB features into DocumentDB.
  • Microsoft offers fully managed Azure for Redis, MariaDB and PostgreSQL cloud platforms. In addition, Microsoft directly challenged a host of small NoSQL open source database vendors by integrating key-value, column-family, document and the graph database models into its CosmosDB platform.
  • Google offers fully managed MySQL, PostgreSQL and Redis open source databases.
  • Oracle has dramatically improved the features and functionality of the open source version of MySQL in its cloud MySQL offering. In addition, Oracle's NoSQL database supports document, columnar and key-value data models.

Other vendors such as MongoDB, DataStax, PlanetScale and ElephantSQL also market multi-cloud DBaaS platforms. Their offerings provide consumers with the ability to easily provision their databases on cloud platforms, including Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

The IT community's interest in open source NoSQL and relational DBMS products is also driving an increasing number of vendors to offer third-party deployment, administration and monitoring tools. In addition, you'll also find a wide range of software applications that now offer open source databases in the list of platforms they support.

The future

The database market landscape no longer consists of a handful of commercial database offerings. As open source database products continue to mature, they will become more extensive, intelligent and standardized.

As a result of these open source database advantages, their enterprise adoption rate will continue to grow. Organizations will increasingly use open source databases as standard data infrastructure choices for new application implementations.

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