The right tool for moving jobs?
Databases rise from ashes as open source

Vendors supply database aids for migration

Migrating HP 3000 shops often look for a new database as part of their projects. A customer who's chosen an application over any other consideration, or a reseller as the key element, cares much less about a database. But in-house applications get moved to new databases. Which one to choose sometimes depends on experience and support, from out of house.

Marxmeier Software is the leading choice for companies who want a database that adapts to IMAGE designs. The company's Eloquence has been praised for years. "Eloquence is one of the best products on the market," said 3000 and Unix consultant Craig Lalley of EchoTech. On this spring's release of Version 8.0, Lalley said "So far, I am very impressed, as usual."

But some companies migrating from 3000s want an open source solution for a replacement. Sometimes these companies seek a vendor-neutral strategy. Duane Percox, one of the founders of K-12 app vendor QSS, said his company sought out open source to replace 3000 apps because HP has made the last decision that will impact QSS like HP did when it dropped the 3000.

PostgreSQL, called Postgres by much of the developer community, has gotten high marks as an IMAGE alternative at QSS. But even though Postgres is open source, vendors have emerged to give the database commercial-grade support and consulting. Like RedHat is to Linux, Enterprise DB is to Postgres. Starting with open source code for the database, EnterpriseDB is pushing Postgres into commercial-class caliber.

3000 customers want a company like Marxmeier or EnterpriseDB to be partners when moving in-house applications. Marxmeier even does strong business with third party app suppliers who've moved products to Unix and Windows. Summit Information Technologies credit union app suite is one great example.

EnterpriseDB touts a product it calls Postgres Plus Advanced Server, the company’s flagship relational database product based on PostgreSQL. EnterpriseDB includes new technology in the Server that enables companies to move more Oracle applications more easily. While that's not much help to the migrating HP 3000 customer, the company promises that a new “Infinite Cache provides massive scalability at low cost by leveraging commodity hardware and eliminating custom programming."

Commodity hardware is at the heart of many a 3000 migration, as customers turn to racks of Windows servers and leverage the in-house expertise in the Microsoft environment. Perhaps of most value to 3000 customers looking at migration today is EnterpriseDB's comparison of Postgres and MySQL, the other open source database. In a deft move, Oracle acquired ownership of MySQL this spring when it purchased Sun Microsystems. Deciding which open source DB to evaluate gets simpler with such Web resources.

There's a Web-based seminar at the EnterpriseDB site comparing the two open source databases. Bill Pillow of the company said they often come in contact with MySQL customers "when they've hit the wall with MySQL." He called MySQL record-bound and better as a read-only choice for a database. Commercial companies are building enterprise-grade foundations from open source by now. But the essential element remains a vendor who's responsible for software in business-critical environments. Finding support and consultation is a hidden but critical cost in using open source solutions.

Postgres still has a long way to travel to become an integrated partner with 3000 tools such as those from Robelle, Speedware, Minisoft and many more. Eloquence counts all those alliances, but open source still appeals on its technical merits and cost of acquisition. Still, third party databases have been more popular with 3000 migrators in the QSS customer base. "We have done a bunch of PostgreSQL," Percox said, "and find it to be a wonderful database, but our customers are choosing SQL Server at a rate of about 80/20 over PostgreSQL." Vendor support continues to matter.