Is it Postgres' time to shine?

EnterpriseDB seems to have figured out that its competition is Oracle in the enterprise, not MySQL in the clouds. This is a good start.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
2 min read

Postgres for years has lived in the shadow of MySQL's media attention: the "boring" database that quietly goes about its work while its sexy Web 2.0 cousin wins the popularity contest.

Recent data from the Eclipse Foundation, however, suggest that Postgres may be ready to make significant waves in the enterprise, even if it doesn't make headlines.

In a recent letter to European Union's commissioner of competition, former MySQL CEO Marten Mickos stressed that MySQL's target market is the emerging Web database market and that the enterprise IT market was never really a source of strength (or focus).

Postgres is the opposite.

Postgres is an enterprise Java database, more suitable for carrying corporate data than the Web's consumer data. According to a 2009 survey by the Eclipse Foundation, MySQL (27.7 percent) and Oracle (27.3 percent) were the top-two databases used by those surveyed, with Postgres registering a respectable but still distant 9.9 percent.

Given that Oracle database users are far more likely to use Java as their programming language to develop server-centric applications, while MySQL users are three times more likely to use PHP as their primary language (17.4 percent of those surveyed use it, versus 5.4 percent for all users) to builde RIA/Web applications, Postgres is clearly more Oracle than MySQL.

Granted, the Eclipse community is traditionally Java-centric, so it's not surprising that Java would be prominent among its developers. But it's also the case that enterprise IT remains a Java/.Net market, and in such a market Postgres could be poised to boom if it can muster sufficient marketing to make its message heard.

This is where EnterpriseDB comes in.

The MySQL community would not be as well-developed as it is without MySQL, the company. MySQL AB has funded the overwhelming majority of MySQL database development, but it has also provided the marketing muscle to make a name for the Web database.

Postgres has traditionally been a standalone, organic open-source project with little concerted corporate involvement. EnterpriseDB has started to change that, but for too long wrongly fixated on competing with MySQL, a database that serves a different market and different developers. The company also spent too much time talking about Oracle migration technology, rather than focusing on why Postgres is a great database.

That may be changing.

Postgres just released version 8.4 of the venerable database. In EnterpriseDB's discussion of the release, there's no mention of Oracle, MySQL, or any other competitor. Instead, EnterpriseDB seems to be focusing more on its commitment to Postgres development, adding significant enterprise hardening through its open-source Postgres Plus distribution.

It's a welcome change, and one that could position Postgres to take a bigger share of the enterprise Java database market--not because it's cheaper than Oracle or more open than MySQL but because it's a great database in its own right.

That's the right messaging for EnterpriseDB...and Postgres.