Why government needs open source databases


Why government needs open source databases

Recent reports on our economy have been positive, but government agencies are still facing unprecedented financial pressures as a result of the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent sequester. As agencies are forced to make do with less, funding for technology programs – across federal, state and local jurisdictions – can oftentimes be the first area to face cuts. With this in mind, CIOs are always on the lookout for ways to centralize and optimize their existing technology to fit into new budget requirements. Open source technologies have become the new priority for government agencies as they look to rein in costs without sacrificing security.

When examining current infrastructure for potential updates, government CIOs would do well to first evaluate their current database architecture for improvement opportunities. Databases, which house and manage data – the lifeblood of every modern digital organization – often account for the largest portion of an IT department’s financial resources. Databases also represent a huge opportunity for leveraging open source technology to reduce costs. Open source database solutions have matured significantly over the last several years to match traditional vendors in key areas of performance, security and manageability. They have the functionality and stability to support mission-critical applications and the tools database administrators need to manage large deployments.

In fact, in a April 2015 Gartner report, the research firm forecast the use of open source databases would exceed traditional solution, noting: "By 2018, more than 70 percent of new in-house applications will be developed on an OSDBMS, and 50 percent of existing commercial [relational database management system] instances will have been converted or will be in process.”

Competitive costs

Open source solutions offer greater flexibility in pricing models as well. In some cases, vendors offering open source  databases price on a subscription-based model that eliminates the licensing fees common to large proprietary systems. An important element to a subscription is that it qualifies as an operating expense versus a more complex capital expenditure. Thus, deploying open source and open source-based databases become a simpler process and can cost 80 to 90 percent less than traditional solutions. This allows agencies to refocus these resources on innovation and key organizational drivers.

Open source database management systems have also matured to levels that Gartner said are on par with other commercial offerings, making management of the system less cost-prohibitive, and the necessary database administration skills more widely available. Hence, open source databases have a substantial advantage in total cost of ownership.


Data security has always been and will continue to remain a major priority for government agencies,  given the sensitive and business-critical nature of the information they collect. Some IT departments may be skeptical of the security capabilities of open source solutions. Gartner's 2014 Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems showed that open source database solutions are being used successfully in mission-critical applications in a large number of organizations. In addition, mature open source solutions today implement the same, if not better, security capabilities of traditional infrastructures. This includes SQL injection prevention, tools for replication and failover, server-side code protections, row-level security and enhanced auditing features, to name a few. Furthermore, as open source technology, in general, becomes more widely accepted across the public sector – intelligence, civilian and defense agencies across the federal government have adopted open source – database solutions are also growing with specific government mandates, regulations and requirements.


Government IT systems need to be flexible and, sometimes, mobile. In addition to being housed in a permanent data center facility, databases support applications may be deployed on tanks, Humvees, temporary office spaces, aircraft, ships and underground sites, among other potential locations. As a result, deployment needs to be quick and simple, and the physical equipment light and transportable. Open source solutions, which use lower levels of memory and RAM and take up less server space, provide an ideal option for these scenarios, compared to installation of traditional systems can oftentimes be a Herculean effort and take up a huge amount of disk space.

Open source is a proven database technology that can handle the most demanding government missions, providing secure, nimble and responsive infrastructure at much lower costs while also fulfilling government mandates, including the October 2009 Department of Defense memorandum. The trend towards open source gives agencies greater agility to respond to a changing environment, more flexibility to meet mission requirements and a nimble and responsive infrastructure, which is exactly what our government’s systems need.

About the Author

Pierre Fricke is vice president, product marketing, at EnterpriseDB.


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