Dispelling the Top Five Open Source Database Myths

Interest in and adoption of open source databases continues to dramatically increase. This truth was recently underscored for me when I sat down with one of the top industry analysts who covers the database market. Among the many interesting data points we discussed were the fact that his company has seen a 50% increase in open source database inquiries in the past 18 months and that more than 80% of corporations are looking to use open source databases in their infrastructures, including companies in the Fortune 100.

These statistics definitely jive with what I saw during my time at MySQL and my current short tenure at EnterpriseDB. There is no shortage of interest in how an open source database can be used to help lower overall database budget costs or get an application delivered in a shorter period of time than a proprietary product. However, that said, there still are a number of outdated myths that surround open source databases.

Myth #1-Open Source Databases Do Not Support Critical Applications: False. According to current data, about 20% of corporations power key applications with open source databases, and that's expected to more than double over the next few years. The top two open source databases-MySQL and Postgres-now have an extremely solid set of features that are capable of tackling most any demanding application.

Myth #2-Open Source Databases Do Not Scale Well: False. This complaint is a thing of the past as both MySQL and Postgres are capable of both, and customer examples abound to refute any who thinks differently. Parallel query isn't handled well yet by open source databases, but some vendors have built engines that do indeed parallelize queries both in a scale up and out architecture.

Second, it was often said that open source databases couldn't handle "big" data. Again, this issue has been obviated as both MySQL and Postgres have been proven to perform well in multi-TB instances. As an example, EnterpriseDB has one customer running an 8TB data warehouse who is very pleased with its overall performance.

Myth #3-Open Source Databases Do Not Offer 24x7 Support: False. Around-the-clock support is offered both by Oracle, which now owns MySQL, and EnterpriseDB, which is the primary corporate entity behind Postgres. Traditional support is supplemented by consultative support and other support options such as hot-fix build programs.

Myth #4-Open Source Databases Have Weak Security: Industry reports have shown that, regarding code vulnerabilities, open source databases usually beat proprietary coding practices because of the large community that supports the code base.

With respect to feature set, the truthfulness of the charge depends on the open source database. MySQL does not currently have various security features such as external authentication, groups/roles, and a few other security items that many other databases support. For Postgres, the security feature set is stronger (e.g., it does support external authentication and groups/roles), but even Postgres lacks a few of the more boutique security features such as row-level security. Even so, DBAs and developers aren't likely to be disappointed in how open source databases manage and support security. Strong login protection features, granular object permissions (e.g., column-level permissions), and more are all found in Postgres and MySQL.

Myth #5-Open Source Databases Don't Really Save Any Money: False. During my nearly 5 years at MySQL, the vast majority of the customers said the No. 1 reason they used MySQL was much better cost over proprietary database software. At EnterpriseDB, the cost savings of Postgres over all the traditional incumbents is quite eye opening as well. 

Sometimes IT managers will worry about the cost of retraining their staff to support an open source database, and this can be a valid concern. However, both Postgres and MySQL support ANSI standard SQL, so nearly every DBA and developer can hit the ground running, with perhaps some supplemental training (offered by both EnterpriseDB and Oracle) helping get everyone 100% up-to-speed. And with EnterpriseDB, the Oracle compatibility layer found in its Advanced Server allows any Oracle expert to continue to code in PL/SQL and run their code unmodified against Postgres.


The strong momentum of open source databases continues in spite of the antiquated rumors that still seem to pop up in Google searches and forum posts. While I've attempted to briefly address the main myths that persist in the market, by far, the best way to dispel any negative assertion you see is to test one for yourself. Download either the community or enterprise versions of Postgres or MySQL today and see if you don't find they are more than up to the challenge of the applications you want to throw at them.