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Old is New Again: The Primacy of Open Source Databases

Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series is a collection of contributed articles written by thought leaders in enterprise tech. In this feature, Continuent Founder and CEO Eero Teerikorpi offers commentary on the primacy of open-source databases through the lens of old being new again.

Data reigns supreme in today’s digital landscape, forming the backbone of businesses across sectors—from financial services to telecommunications and e-commerce. As enterprises grapple with ever-increasing volumes of data, the demand for efficient, reliable and scalable data management systems has never been more critical.

This need has spurred a renewed interest in open-source databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL (aka Postgres), which are vital in the modern technological ecosystem. Not that they never went out of fashion, but their primary interest was in the non-SQL and other new technologies for a while. However, for the core transactional data processing needs, using MySQL and PostgreSQL has held and increased their role.

The Appeal of Open Source

One of the primary drivers behind the resurgence of open-source databases is their cost-effectiveness. Unlike proprietary databases with high licensing fees, open-source databases are free to use, modify and distribute. This makes them particularly attractive to startups and smaller businesses that may not have the financial resources to invest in expensive software. But, at the same time, as open-source databases have matured over the past 20 years, they have become increasingly accepted by large enterprises running business-critical applications. Open-source software’s flexibility also allows companies to customize database systems to fit their specific needs without the constraints imposed by proprietary licenses.

Open-source projects thrive on the contributions of a global community of developers. This collaborative approach not only accelerates innovation but also leads to more robust, secure, and feature-rich solutions. Regular updates and a transparent, peer-reviewed process help quickly address vulnerabilities, a stark contrast to the slower update cycles typical of proprietary systems. The collective expertise of a vibrant community ensures that open-source databases can rapidly adapt to new technological trends and user requirements, fostering a sense of shared purpose and community.

Initially, skeptics doubted the performance and reliability of open-source databases compared to their proprietary counterparts. However, over the years, platforms like MySQL and PostgreSQL have matured significantly, now offering performance that rivals or even exceeds that of proprietary databases. High-profile tech companies and even critical infrastructure systems increasingly rely on these databases for their operations, underscoring their reliability and performance capabilities.

Scalability and Integration

In an era where the amount of data generated is colossal, scalability becomes a critical factor in choosing a database solution. Open-source databases are designed to scale efficiently from small, single-machine applications to large, distributed systems with many terabytes of data. MySQL is known for its scale-out capabilities, thus making it an excellent back-end for SaaS applications and other web properties. On the other hand, PostgreSQL offers features like table partitioning, which allows for efficient data organization and concurrency without read locks, ensuring smooth operation even under heavy workloads.

Another significant advantage of open-source databases is their ease of integration with other software. Being open, these databases can be connected with many programming languages and software environments. This seamless integration is particularly important as businesses increasingly adopt diverse software stacks and cloud services. The ability to integrate easily with tools for analytics, machine learning, and data visualization enhances the utility of open-source databases.

Driving the Future

As the digital landscape evolves, the role of open-source databases is set to grow. Innovations in areas like real-time analytics, IoT and AI demand more and more from databases, and open-source solutions are at the forefront of meeting these challenges. The open-source community is continually developing enhanced capabilities such as real-time data streaming, improved transaction speeds and better data encryption.

The sustainable, community-driven model of open-source development not only fosters innovation but also promotes a more equitable distribution of technology. By democratizing access to advanced database technologies, open-source databases empower businesses worldwide to harness the power of their data without prohibitive costs.


The resurgence of open-source databases is a testament to their growing importance in a world dominated by data. With their unmatched cost-effectiveness, flexibility and a strong community of innovators, these databases are not just a viable alternative to proprietary systems—they are often the preferred choice. As businesses continue to navigate the complexities of data management, open-source databases stand ready to power the next generation of digital solutions, proving once again that in the world of technology, sometimes “old” is indeed new again.

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