The Open Source Database May Be On Its Last Legs

    February 7, 2017

    By Scott Adams

    Open source databases used to be an industry standard, but the convenience and freedom of the cloud may cause them to all but disappear from the market.

    There was a time when developers considered open source to be the gold standard in development, and it quickly surpassed proprietary software on all fronts. Open source software offered a competitive advantage in cost, licensing, security, and flexibility. Back in 2005, TechTarget wrote that “Open source is a rolling freight train that cannot be stopped,” citing tech giant Microsoft’s desire to stop the change.

    A lot has changed in the last 11 years, and some developers claim that cloud computing is rapidly closing the window of opportunity for open source businesses. When Cloudera Co-Founder Mike Olson declared that "It's pretty hard to build a successful, stand-­alone open source company," Adobe VP Matt Asay took it one step further: “It's impossible.”

    The Evidence

    While the tech sector at large is a growing field, the cloud-computing industry in particular has seen explosive growth. According to data from, Amazon’s DynamoDB and Microsoft’s DocumentsDB have grown by as much as 47,000% since 2012, a far cry from the relatively modest growth of open source RDBMS companies such as MySQL and PostgreSQL.

    Many well-known companies have already moved either part or all of their operations to the cloud. Netflix accounted for over a third of peak traffic in 2015 — double YouTube’s traffic and significantly ahead of iTunes’ 3%. For Netflix, the journey to the cloud began in 2008, and now the company relies on the cloud for all of their scalable computing needs. Other tech giants such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Apple have followed suit, turning to the cloud to solve issues with capacity and outages.

    Computing forefather IBM has also invested heavily in cloud technology, as they look to provide more service-focused solutions. “The acceleration of IBM’s move towards services-business, from databases to application development, is understandable in the wider context of its financials,” wrote Stephen O’Grady for In layman’s terms, IBM understands that without the cloud, their software division will struggle to see growth.

    But why the uptick in cloud usage? What advantages do developers see in cloud databases when open source has been the industry standard for so long?

    Increased Convenience and Choice

    The main selling point of open source was always the convenience it offered over closed source. In order to procure a proprietary product, tech departments would have to fill out registration forms, talk to a sales rep, and dedicate significant budget to the product’s purchase and installation. By contrast, open source was a quick click and a download. Open source has since ceded the crown of convenience to the cloud, given its ability to quickly deploy resources without the need for legacy hardware upgrades or software patch downloads.

    Choice was another factor that made open source king for nearly two decades, but too much of a good thing can oftentimes become a bad thing. Faced with a choice at every turn, developers needed to use time and energy to make decisions between open source implementations, all of which were credible.

    As Stephen O’Grady wrote on, "Choice is an overhead, overhead that is multiplied with each additional choice a user has to make."

    Now, with the power of the cloud, developers are presented with a default service for every category imaginable: a storage array, CDN, container engine, and so on. Free from the need to arbitrarily decide between a wellspring of equally viable options, developers can set their sights on more productive and innovative uses of their time.

    Maintaining Reliability and Managing Freedom

    It is essential that you maintain a sense of control over your IT resources, and performance management software like TeamQuest’s Vityl Suite ensures you are deploying the right resources at the right time. Vityl Adviser monitors your services for potential risks and also presents you with everything you would ever need to know about the health of your systems. These vendor-agnostic tools allow you to consolidate data from physical servers, virtual servers, and cloud instances, so that you can make decisions proactively in order to avoid costly outages and wasteful over-provisioning.

    Regardless of where your database lies, it’s imperative to arm your IT staff with the most powerful tools to make decisions in real-time.

    Category: cloud