Industry Leader Q&A with Ed Boyajian, President and CEO, EnterpriseDB

Ed Boyajian joined EnterpriseDB, the open source database company whose products and services are based on PostgreSQL, in June, 2008, as president and CEO. Before that, he spent six years in sales leadership roles at Red Hat, including vice president and general manager for North American sales, and vice president, worldwide OEM and North American channels. Recently, Boyajian chatted with DBTA about the looming challenges and opportunities for open source in general as well as for EnterpriseDB's Postgres Plus product family.

DBTA: The economy is in a tailspin. Is this a good time to be in the open source arena?

Boyajian: The economy helps enterprises that want to adopt open source technologies, and in turn it really helps the companies that are providing open source solutions today. There are a lot of aspects of value that are created through open source technologies, but probably the most important is costs savings for the enterprise. Given everything else that is going on in the economy, and particularly in IT shops and enterprises where severe degrees of cost cutting are corporate mandates now, and given the radical costs savings that people can experience across the whole open source arena, I think it is good for the industry. Specifically, around the database-if you look across the data center where the big buckets of software spend lie, traditionally you saw it in the operating system, you saw it in middleware, you certainly see it in the database. It is an $18 billion software industry for a reason and given that that's such a big bucket of spend in any data center, it's a place that gets a lot of scrutiny today, particularly because the open source technologies that are alternatives are excellent database options and they always have been.

DBTA: We saw information from EnterpriseDB at the end of 2008 that cited growth of new customer accounts of more than 50 percent, as well as figures placing EnterpriseDB's customer base at roughly 300. Is that accurate?

Boyajian: That's a reasonable range to peg it. We don't publish the number. To some extent that is an internal metric we worry about, but it is very important for us to watch that as a way to define the traction that we are getting and the broader adoption in the market. What's noteworthy to me about that accomplishment is that's across our entire customer base for the past three years, not just a year-on-year growth number.

DBTA: How do open source databases figure into the emergence of software as a service and cloud computing?

Boyajian: It's a very interesting area. I would differentiate a little bit between software as a service and cloud computing although they are closely related. We are finding that the appetite for Postgres as a database option in SaaS environments is very strong. It's an area where the vendors view the cost of goods sold and the cost of the goods they deliver to customers very, very closely. They are the new low cost entrant in their segments and so having a database that performs as well as the proprietary alternatives, but at a fraction of the cost is something that has been very attractive in the SaaS market.

DBTA: And in the cloud?

Boyajian: In cloud computing we see similar opportunities. Cloud computing is, in general, still in its early stages of growth but we think that ultimately the use of an open source database in the cloud-and we have an offering in the cloud today-has a lot of promise and a lot of growth, not only for EnterpriseDB but it is also a good way for companies who need a utility-based computing model to acquire their software assets and resources.

DBTA: Is there any significance to using open source rather than proprietary database technology in that stack?

Boyajian: I think the question in those cases just comes down to the fundamental economic question. This is what's interesting about this point in time-and it is related to the cloud but it is more general also. If you look at the history of Postgres as an example-and Postgres has been available for more than 20 years-it is an incredibly well-developed, full-featured, highly performant database-and highly respected. The fact that it's available at a fraction of the cost makes it impossible to ignore in this environment. I think that it is for that reason, more driven around cost that is the result of the community development model, which I personally believe just develops superior code. It's the combination of a superior technical product that comes from open source, and a low price that just makes it impossible to ignore if you are in the market for a database.

DBTA: Sun Microsystems announced the purchase of MySQL in January 2008 and in the past months, some key executives have resigned. How do those changes affect the open source ecosystem and EnterpriseDB as well?

Boyajian: We're finding that many companies are looking across the vendor options in open source database carefully and given that there are effectively two of us that compete actively in the space-MySQL and EnterpriseDB-we find if anyone has been seriously looking at or using MySQL, that they are now taking the time to give EnterpriseDB and Postgres a much closer look as an alternative. And that's also due to the fact that Postgres is particularly well-suited to transaction-intensive workloads.

DBTA: What's next for EnterpriseDB?

Boyajian: We are going to zero in on operational execution and bringing our technologies to as many companies as possible. We think we've got excellent technology for customer needs right now. We're working closely with our prospects and customers to help them go through the process of adopting Postgres and Postgres Plus into their environment. We are starting in areas of non-mission-critical workloads, helping companies who are deploying new applications using Postgres Plus as a new database, with a longer term vision to begin a structured migration off of the expensive Oracle-and other alternatives that they have. I think we are uniquely positioned to do that because we offer the benefits of Postgres, where we're core experts on Postgres as a database, and then our Oracle compatibility cuts most of the costs out of migrating off of Oracle. We see both of those as central to the business and will continue to build out competency and technical capabilties around that.