The shifting market for PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL has been around in some form since 1986, yet somehow keeps getting younger and hipper with each year. Startups like Timescale have found old-school PostgreSQL to be key to building their new-school database products, joining companies like EnterpriseDB in deepening PostgreSQL’s popularity. In fact, EnterpriseDB just celebrated its 44th consecutive quarter of rising annual recurring revenue. That’s 11 years of PostgreSQL paying the bills (and growing the number of bills EnterpriseDB can afford to pay).

As steady as PostgreSQL has been, however, its progress hasn’t been linear. I recently spoke with EnterpriseDB CEO Ed Boyajian, now in his 13th year at the helm of the company, who talked about the essential ingredients to PostgreSQL’s rise. The first? Developers. Yes, developers, who keep evolving PostgreSQL to meet new needs in the cloud, even as they optimize it to handle their oldest, on-premises requirements.

Developers go retro

Over the years, the market has dallied with NoSQL and NewSQL and every other shape of database imaginable. We’ve also gone through various shades of self-managed data center hosting to public clouds and everything in between. Through it all, developers have embraced PostgreSQL, even as the PostgreSQL community has shaped and reshaped the database to fit emerging workloads.

Early on, EnterpriseDB tried to bludgeon Oracle with a compatibility layer that allowed applications to run on PostgreSQL but think they were running Oracle Database. It’s what EnterpriseDB was known for in its early days. But according to Boyajian, it’s not really the primary reason enterprises adopt PostgreSQL. He says about a third of EnterpriseDB’s business is net new customers, half of which are enterprises looking to migrate off another database, usually Oracle. The other half? It’s for greenfield applications.

This shift toward new application development, and away from Oracle replacements, may be accelerating for PostgreSQL. “This has changed dramatically over time,” said Boyajian. “It has paralleled the shift in who makes database decisions, as that’s moved more and more to the hands of developers and business units.” Give enterprise IT the say and perhaps they continue to fumble along with Oracle (or whatever their legacy database choice happens to be), pushing it into new workloads because, well, that’s what they’ve always done.

But let developers decide and you start to see all sorts of different options, from MongoDB to PostgreSQL and a host of other options. Ask tens of thousands of developers which databases they most love, as Stack Overflow did, and PostgreSQL is topped only by Redis.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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