November 23, 2005

Sun to integrate PostgreSQL into Solaris 10

Author: Stephen Feller

Sun Microsystems announced on earlier this month that it would begin including the PostgreSQL database with Solaris 10 sometime in the 30 days, and will immediately offer full support for it, as well as fully integrate the software into the operating system over the next several months.

PostgreSQL will be the second database included with Solaris, though it is expected to be made a more major part of the OS than MySQL, the database already included, said Chris Ratcliffe, director of Solaris software for Sun. He added that the 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week support would mimic that which is provided for the 187 other open source applications packaged with Solaris.

PostgreSQL is one of the applications Ratcliffe said customers have been asking about for Solaris, especially in terms of open source software, and that the addition makes sense for the OS considering the sheer number of open source applications already supported by Sun.

"One of the things that we're seeing increasingly from our customers -- they're looking for ways to reduce costs in their environment," Ratcliffe said. "One of the ways a lot of customers are doing this is by looking to create open source application stacks.... They're actually now starting to look at open source databases, which are getting to the point that any enterprise can use them in some low-end infrastructure solutions and not actually have to worry about paying any licensing costs."

Offering it's enterprise customer base more options, and more support, for the open source options they desire is part of an ongoing strategy that Sun has built itself around, Ratcliffe said. By offering another database option, specifically one that its customers want, he said Sun is playing to customers who specifically want what the company is selling: "One throat to choke, full-on support" for all the software they use.

Good for PostgreSQL

The PostgreSQL project, which started in 1986 as an offshoot of the Ingres database, is BSD-licensed database software that already is available with most Linux distributions, both FreeBSD and OpenBSD, and Apple's Darwin, according to developer Josh Berkus.

Berkus called Sun's involvement in the project a good thing, and especially approved of its plans for full support services. "The primary benefits are the vote of confidence this gives us with potential adopters," he said.

"We've suffered over the last couple of years with having our biggest users unwilling to go on the record about their use of PostgreSQL. Being able to say, 'Well, it's good enough for Sun' will carry a lot of weight with companies that are evaluating their database options."

Berkus said working with Sun is especially beneficial because the vast experience of engineers at the company would help the database's developers get by problems they've reached recently. "As we push forward with our goal of more features and better performance ... we're running into really hard problems," he said. "Sun's database team includes some people with more than 20 years of expertise designing database systems, and I hope to use that expertise."

Ratcliffe said Sun's plan is to tie PostgreSQL with the company's DTrace framework to so administrators can see how it is interacting with Solaris through a graphical interface Sun is developing. He said this ability will allow administrators to see hidden bottlenecks and where specifically they need to make changes to improve system performance. The software's "in-kernel telemetry" allows a look at how applications are interacting with Solaris and the kernel, so that areas of improvement in terms of optimization and portability can be discovered, he said.

DTrace has allowed Sun's customers to improve application performance by "literally up to 50 times," with improvements often noticeable in a few hours, he said. By linking the two applications, as well as contributing to the PostgreSQL development community, Ratcliffe said Solaris users are not the only ones that could benefit from the integration. "We're pretty sure that a number of the changes that we'll make will actually improve performance on other platforms as well," he said.

Ratcliffe said he does not see the integration of another database application into Solaris as a threat to Sun's longtime partnership with Oracle. Sun recently worked with the company to develop database packages for small- and medium-sized enterprise servers. "We have a great relationship with Oracle," he said. "A lot of the things that we're talking about doing for PostgreSQL are either in the works or we have already done [with them]."

Oracle declined to provide a spokesperson to comment on Sun's addition of PostgreSQL to Solaris 10.

The addition to Solaris 10 may not create direct competition to anything Oracle itself offers, but PostgreSQL could be considered a competitor to Oracle-compatible software such as EnterpriseDB, an enhanced, proprietary version of PostgreSQL designed to be compatible with Oracle applications. Andy Astor, chief executive officer at EnterpriseDB Corp., said he does not consider EnterpriseDB to be a competitor of PostgreSQL, and that Sun's inclusion of the database does not mean his company is competing with Sun. Rather, Astor said he sees it as an opportunity for more customers to discover his product as they use the one it is based on.

"[It's] the same reason that EnterpriseDB never competed with PostgreSQL itself: EnterpriseDB is substantially different from native PostgreSQL," Astor said. "Sun's selection of PostgreSQL will likely mean that many more of our potential customers and others interested in EnterpriseDB will be familiar with PostgreSQL, so we'll be able to focus our communications efforts on the added value we provide on top of native PostgreSQL."

Astor added that Sun's choice of PostgreSQL for Solaris over other open source databases such as MySQL "highlights PostgreSQL's superiority over other offerings in terms of reliability, scalability, and suitability for enterprise use. Because our product is built on PostgreSQL, we're pleased with that result."

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