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Taking a practical approach to open source PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL database users including Ikea and Konica Minolta Healthcare detail how and why they chose to use the open source database at the Postgres Vision 2020 virtual conference.

The open source PostgreSQL database, sometimes referred to as Postgres, is continuing to find new applications as a scalable relational database.

At the Postgres Vision 2020 virtual conference, held Tuesday and Wednesday, database developers and users shared insights on PostgreSQL's past, present and future. The event was sponsored by EnterpriseDB, which used the event to mark its rebranding to EDB.

PostgreSQL is an open source database and can be freely used by anyone. EDB provides a commercial distribution as well as different support options for those running the community edition of PostgreSQL on their own.

Assembling PostgreSQL at Ikea

Among the many users of PostgreSQL that detailed their journey to the open source database at the conference was global retailer Ikea. In a breakout session on Wednesday, Dinesh Adhikari, infrastructure manager for databases at Ikea, outlined the database challenges his organization faces and why it's now using PostgreSQL. Ikea was founded in Sweden in 1943, and today has 424 locations spread across 52 countries.

Adhikari said that Ikea has been using mostly proprietary databases throughout its history. However, he noted that there have been gaps, and with a rise in e-commerce sales in recent years, some scaling challenges as well.

To that end, Adhikari's team started a database assessment review.

Ikea database operations
Ikea undertook a complete review of its database operations as part of its path to PostgreSQL.

The review included a comprehensive investigation of how Ikea was using databases throughout its organization, including analyzing the total cost of ownership. Adhikari's team found that the company had more development and test databases than production databases. The assessment also determined that provisioning time was slow, and utilization was also low.

After the assessment, Ikea decided to build out a database services platform to help consolidate database operations.

We have worked with relational databases, over the years, but some of those enterprise- grade databases are just used to store tables and columns. We wanted to create a better fit-for-purpose database, so that's the way we basically started our journey with Postgres.
Dinesh AdhikariInfrastructure manager for databases, Ikea

"We have worked with relational databases, over the years, but some of those enterprise-grade databases are just used to store tables and columns," Adhikari said. "We wanted to create a better fit-for-purpose database, so that's the way we basically started our journey with Postgres."

Adhikari noted that among the attributes of PostgreSQL that were attractive was the community. He said that knowledge sharing as well as contributions from a broad range of developers helped give his team confidence that PostgreSQL would be a good option for Ikea.

Adhikari's teams started out by deploying open source Postgres on their own. They determined that they didn't have the skills in-house to build out and support all the services they needed, so they engaged with EDB for support.

Ikea is still working on reaching its targets for modernizing its databases.

"I think it's going take quite some time before we get there, but we are technically on the right track," he said. "Having Postgres and all the support from EDB gives us the capability and confidence to move in this direction."

PostgreSQL at Konica Minolta Healthcare

PostgreSQL has also won over organizations in the healthcare sector, including Konica Minolta Healthcare Americas, based in Wayne, N.J. In a user session on June 23, Adam Bunch, systems architect and engineering manager at Konica Minolta Healthcare Americas, detailed his organization's path to using PostgreSQL.

Konica Minolta Healthcare sells a software platform used by hospital radiology departments. The core database that had been part of the platform was Microsoft SQL but Konica Minolta Healthcare wanted to move to another database to reduce costs and improve scalability.

"We looked at MySQL and we look at Postgres and we even looked outside of strict relational database platforms," Bunch said. "We chose Postgres because just from a performance perspective it seemed to scale better than anything else."

The vendor's move to PostgreSQL, however, was not without its own set of challenges. The open source PostgreSQL database requires more developer time and resources to set up than a ready-made product.

That said, Bunch noted that PostgreSQL provides more control and customization than a proprietary option. Bunch also had some challenges scaling his team of database administrators to support PostgreSQL. So, he said, he went with EDB, which helps Konica Minolta Healthcare with PostgreSQL operations.

"It has been a real fun journey for us moving away from Microsoft SQL moving into an open source platform, especially from a database perspective," Bunch said. "You know we have a number of other open source technologies that we're using to build this platform, but Postgres is really the foundation."

Why open source is key to PostgreSQL

While EDB is a leading contributor and supporter of PostgreSQL, EDB CEO Ed Boyajian said during his keynote on June 23 that the real differentiator is the open source community.

Boyajian noted that multiple vendors and a diverse array of contributors build the open source Postgres database.

"PostgreSQL has a vibrant vital community that isn't controlled by a single company, and that's what gives it its strength," Boyajian said.

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