Why PostgreSQL is rapidly becoming the DBMS of choice in Asia

Why PostgreSQL is rapidly becoming the DBMS of choice in Asia

By Paul Mah, Tech Writer, EDB

Over the last decade in Asia, there has been a fundamental shift in attitudes towards adoption of PostgreSQL, which is a free and open-source relational database management system, unlike established database management systems (DBMS) which lock you in to a particular vendor. 

At the recent Asia Industry Roundtable organised by EDB, formerly known as EnterpriseDB, panellists (who represented the largest markets in Asia for PostgreSQL) remarked that the system’s exceptional breadth of features, deep adoption, and strong community support are some of the reasons for its surging popularity here.

Moreover, as a senior consultant at open-source consulting and services firm Ashnik, Ajit Gadge recalls there was a time when customers inevitably compared PostgreSQL with other DBMSes, but he says, those days are long gone: “Postgres today can go head-to-head with any commercial DBMS out there.”

Growing from strength to strength

“The primary driver for choosing Postgres may have been cost in the earlier days, but in 2021 we now have a mature DBMS packed with enterprise features,” said Gadge, who shuttled between Mumbai and Singapore pre-COVID.

He ticked off a list of reasons for adopting PostgreSQL: “Integration with other technologies, stability, performance, and a wealth of features and capabilities. Businesses can deploy the most complex enterprise-class workloads with Postgres.”

Julyanto Sutandang, CEO of IT solution provider Equnix Business Solutions in Indonesia affirmed the popularity of PostgreSQL in the world’s fourth most populous nation. He recounted how his firm worked with EDB in 2011 to help a customer switch from Oracle Database to PostgreSQL. The latter soon took off in Indonesia, and his list of customers on PostgreSQL soared over the next few years.

“Indonesians are supportive of open-source in general, and non-technical employees are happy to use open-source software. There are many corporations in Indonesia using Postgres and other open-source offerings such as Linux today,” Sutandang said.

The choice of tech giants

In China, Grant Zhou, the co-founder and president of Highgo Software thinks the permissive PostgreSQL License is perfect for Chinese firms. Sometimes called a Berkeley Source Distribution (BSD)-style license, the PostgreSQL License comes with minimum restrictions on how it can be used, modified, or redistributed. 

PostgreSQL was recently ranked as the DBMS of the year 2020 by DB-Engines, and was rated as the second most used and loved DBMS by developers, according to a survey by Stack Overflow

Zhou says, “Postgres has so many powerful features available, such as status data, hstore, and an extensible design that supports Postgres extensions. With certain extensions, we can turn Postgres into a completely different solution. That’s a good thing for users of the DBMS.”

He indicated how the rapid growth of PostgreSQL in China was preceded by widespread adoption by Chinese tech giants: “Alibaba Cloud released their open-source PolarDB for PostgreSQL (PolarDB) based on Postgres. Huawei’s enterprise-class GaussDB product is also based on Postgres. Many other large companies in China are similarly providing more advanced database capabilities based on Postgres – that is a credit to the Postgres platform,” said Zhou.

Strong community support

Panellist Kosuke Kida, the head of the Japan PostgreSQL User Group described how in Asia Postgres is a favourite choice for organisations that want to change their database. “According to our JAPAC survey conducted last year, the largest number of users are choosing Postgres as a destination for their migration process. It has become the number one destination for those who want to change their database.”

Kida attributed the popularity of PostgreSQL to a friendly and supportive community that works unrelentingly to advocate and promote PostgreSQL at various conferences and events. Top PostgreSQL engineers often voluntarily dispense technical tips and presentations that were directly applicable to his customer support role.

Being a beneficiary of the vibrant PostgreSQL community inspired Kida to do more: “It is my turn to contribute to the community by helping beginners or those interested in Postgres.”

Masahiko Sawada, a PostgreSQL Architect for EDB in Japan, described a vibrant community where beginners can find the help they need to improve, one where experienced members of the community can guide them in the intricacies of contributing to the Postgres community.

Sawada shared that there is a rich array of local events and get-togethers. “I think it’s a good opportunity for beginners to improve their technical skills. They can connect with experienced Postgres engineers to enhance their technical skills, report bugs, and further engage with the community. I think that the strong community is one of the reasons why there are many Postgres contributors in Japan.”

A DBMS for the future

Gadge says that the PostgreSQL community is among the strongest in the open-source database space. “Apart from the core developers, many individuals and organisations are building tools and features around Postgres, from addressing the BCP [bulk copy program] issues, new monitoring features, maintenance features, and more,” he said.

Sutandang shared an anecdote of how one organisation in Indonesia enquired about a non-existent commercial version of PostgreSQL upon shortlisting it, apparently unaware of its open-source roots. He called for more education about open-source software, and for businesses to stay true to the spirit of open-source software by contributing to the PostgreSQL project.

For now, there is no question that Postgres is the DBMS for the future. 

Bruce Momjian, vice president and Postgres evangelist at EDB highlighted the stark shift in attitudes towards PostgreSQL. “When I talked to engineers about Postgres in the past, their reaction used to be: ‘I don’t want to do this Postgres thing, because I think it’s going to hurt my career. I’m not going to be an Oracle expert anymore; I’m not going to be a Microsoft expert anymore. I’m going to lose my job’. That’s completely changed now.”

Gadge agreed with the changed situation, saying, “When hiring, we can see that there is demand for PostgreSQL expertise with a really good skill set in the market. It is not like the early days, where that attitude was, if I learn Postgres, I lose my skill set and my job. Now the shift is the other way: I must learn Postgres because there is demand now.”

EDB is a leading contributor to PostgreSQL. The Roundtable was held at the end of June as part of the Postgres Vision 2021 conference.

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