Open Source: Is it Right for Your Database?

Organizations today have an unprecedented variety of options when it comes to choosing a database management system (DBMS), including many tried-and-true solutions from longstanding vendors such as Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and SAP. Newcomers such Amazon, Rackspace, and Google also are doing some very interesting things in terms of cloud-based database operations.

The DBMS arena also has been tremendously impacted, like much of the technology landscape, by the open source software (OSS) movement. The draw of an OSS DBMS, such as MySQL, is potential savings on license and maintenance costs and the innovation invited by an open platform. However, until relatively recently, OSS DBMS options were not considered truly viable for mission-critical enterprise workloads because they lacked certain key features, including management functionality.

Today, however, MySQL in particular has evolved into a serious contender as an enterprise-capable database engine, powering many websites and commercial applications. Aided in large part by Oracle’s acquisition of the company behind MySQL, we have seen over the past several years the growth of a number of very interesting and viable MySQL derivatives.

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Thus many organizations are at the very least considering MySQL or another OSS DBMS option to either replace aging, more expensive platforms or run alongside their existing DBMS as a means to start taking advantage of the open-source benefits.

You may be asking yourself, “Is an OSS DBMS right for my infrastructure?”

There is no catchall answer to that question, as it depends on many factors related to your specific infrastructure and organizational needs. However, consider the following follow-up questions, which almost universally apply:

Why Do You Want to Go Open Source?

Open source can mean many different things, depending on whom you ask and what is important to them. For some, open source is about the ability to access, inspect, modify, or contribute to the source code. But for most organizations, this is not very valuable in practice.

For others, open source is all about free software. If this is why OSS is attractive to your organization, you should also consider commercial, non-OSS databases that are free and may be viable for some workloads.

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Do not assume that open-source software has no costs. Contrary to popular belief, OSS DBMSs are not always truly “free.” Customization, configuration, and management of OSS software might require more work than with commercial tools. So the total cost of ownership, factoring the total yearly cost for database professionals, actually could end up being similar to the costs of your already existing non-OSS DBMS.;

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