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Vonage's Open Source Database Odyssey

In an interesting twist of irony, Oracle, which is taking aim at Linux leader Red Hat for being too expensive, is being undercut with an open source challenge to its namesake database.

VoIP vendor Vonage Networks is deploying EnterpriseDB, which is built on top of the open source PostgreSQL database as an alternative to Oracle. EnterpriseDB Advanced Server adds Oracle compatibility to native PostgreSQL as well as performance improvements.

One of the key criteria for Vonage's selection of EnterpriseDB is Oracle compatibility, which is also why Vonage will use EnterpriseDB in favor of open source MySQL in some instances, as well.

"Vonage is both a MySQL and an Oracle shop," Andy Astor, CEO of EnterpriseDB, told internetnews.com. "Fundamentally they found that MySQL was not able to scale and Oracle's price was prohibitive."

Vonage is taking a very methodical step-by-step approach to using EnterpriseDB in its environment and is not doing a wholesale migration from Oracle.

"It's a scale out and complementary deployment, sort of a peaceful co-existence," Tim Smith, president of Vonage Networks, told internetnews.com.

Smith explained that Vonage is using EnterpriseDB in one instance as part of a ticketing system upgrade.

"We didn't feel like going all the way to Oracle for it because of the hardware hunger of Oracle and the cost of Oracle," Smith said. "We thought we'd take it to EnterpriseDB and the PostgreSQL compatibility and see where it goes."

Vonage is also a user of the open source MySQL database, which Smith views as being more of an embedded database for Vonage at the low end of the scale, with Oracle being at the top.

EntepriseDB fits in the middle. According to Smith, the general idea behind choosing EnterpriseDB over Oracle or MySQL is to provide more performance, scale and enterprise flavor but without the cost or complexity.

Vonage isn't the first VoIP vendor to use PostgreSQL somewhere in its back end. Skype is also a PostgreSQL user.

At the 10-year anniversary event for PostgreSQL, Skype officially donated a pair of new technologies to PostgreSQL to help management and scalability.

Skype's use of PostgreSQL had no impact on Vonage's decision, according to Smith.

"We are really just looking for a tool more appropriate for where we are in terms of scale," Smith said.

Vonage's use of EnterpriseDB may well benefit the greater PostgreSQL community over time.

"Right now PostgreSQL 8.2 is in beta. But by the time 8.3 rolls around, you're going to see some interesting performance improvements that will be contributed by EnterpriseDB," Astor said.

EnterpriseDB is directly targeting Oracle customers with outbound sales efforts, and apparently more than a few are coming on their own.

"Frankly we've had more than our share of inbound Oracle customers asking for our help," Astor said. "That is fundamentally our strategy, to work with Oracle customers."