Ed Boyajian, EnterpriseDB’s president and CEO
Open source is about a lot more than just Linux, though open source software vendors can learn a lot from the success of Linux. That’s where open source database vendor EnterpriseDB is headed with its new CEO Ed Boyajian, who was recruited out of Linux leader Red Hat in June.
Boyajian holds a Harvard M.B.A. and spent six years at Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) with his last role being vice president and general manager of North America. At EnterpriseDB, the focus isn’t on Linux but rather on the PostgreSQL open source database and the related products and technologies that EnterpriseDB supports and produces.
PostgreSQL has been around for more than a decade, though it still has room to grow in terms of adoption. On the open source side, PostgreSQL has been overshadowed in some respects by MySQL and its massive $1 billion buyout by Sun. On the commercial side, EnterpriseDB goes head to head against Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), which is one of the world’s largest software vendors.
So how will EnterpriseDB compete? In an interview with InternetNews.com, Boyajian explained how the lessons learned from Red Hat about growing an open source business can be used to grow an open source database business as well.
Q: Why did you leave Red Hat?
I had a terrific experience at Red Hat, and I still have great affection for the business. A lot of my friends are still there.
In the role I was in as general manager of North America, I spent a lot of time with large customers who were groping with a basic spending problems, and we were dealing with that with the operating system.
But there was always the nagging question around database spending and some frustration with the incumbent proprietary guys. I couldn’t ignore that as I looked at the industry and lived through the adoption of open source as an operating system.
It was so clear to me that next wave of adoption is around the database, and I think we’re seeing the first signs now.
So when I was presented with the opportunity of coming to EnterpriseDB, I just couldn’t say no. Having had the experience at Red Hat I also felt that I was well suited to come to EnterpriseDB and help build a model that would generate the kind of success we had at Red Hat.
Q: How does EnterpriseDB differ from Red Hat?
In many ways there are a lot of similarities. I think that at Red Hat and at EnterpriseDB we see a very open culture of communication, dialogue and debate about issues, whether they are development or business issues.
One of the obvious differences is that EnterpriseDB is a much smaller company. It’s a lot easier to make change and adjustment and to react to business issues and needs faster.
Q: What do you see as the principal myth or misconception about what EnterpriseDB does or doesn’t do?
The company’s original founding was around Oracle compatibility technology. It was really built on the premise of migrating customers off Oracle to a lower cost alternative.
Along the way, the company developed a very deep competency in PostgreSQL, and we discovered that there are a lot of companies that need those capabilities and needed help.
The myth about the company is that it’s an Oracle compatibility company. In fact, what we’re intent on promoting is our role in helping enterprises to adopt PostgreSQL.
We think our Oracle compatibility technology is important as part of a life-cycle relationship with a customer.
The long-term opportunity is a replacement opportunity for proprietary databases. Some people have used the term “Oracle avoidance” as a first step. We see the opportunity to grow new applications on a new target database, and that’s PostgreSQL.
Q: Who is the competition? Is it MySQL or Oracle or both?
The incumbent vendors are the competition, and depending on the company we get involved with, we see anywhere from three to five vendors. That can be Oracle, and many times it is — they own half the database market.
Because we’ve been focusing on transaction-intensive application areas, the customers we see are generally not using MySQL, which has done well in the read-intensive space.
Q: What do you see as barriers to adoption of EnterpriseDB products specifically and PostgreSQL in general?
One of the natural barriers to adoption is awareness around the technical merits of PostgreSQL and making sure that developers understand what PostgreSQL can do.
Our role in that has to be in evangelizing PostgreSQL.
Q: In March of this year, IBM (NYSE: IBM) took an equity stake in EnterpriseDB. How influential is IBM in the EnterpriseDB process now?
From an influence point of view there is not a specific formal relationship. Obviously IBM as a partner is very important to us, the investment is indicative of their interest in the company and our future.
Specifically there is not a particular focus they have on an outcome for us that I can tell.
Q: With Sun placing a billion of their marbles behind MySQL, do you see EnterpriseDB as the commercial leader for PostgreSQL now?
Most definitely and with that comes a big responsibly to the community and to our customers similar to what Red Hat has for the Linux community. We feel the weight of that responsibility very heavily at EnterpriseDB.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you have in being the CEO of EnterpriseDB?
In a company of our size, it’s easy to lose focus. The biggest thing I need to do is paint the vision of where this company needs to go, maintain the focus of the team and make sure resources are the important priorities. You know, CEO 101 stuff.
Andy Astor as founder and leader of EnterpriseDB up to this point did a phenomenal job getting the company established.
This next stage of growth, I look at it as my job to put in place the structure and operational discipline that frankly I learned at Red Hat around developing the adoption of open source technologies in the enterprise. And to put in place some the structure to have a very scalable and repeatable model.