Percona Open Source Survey: Variety remains the spice of life

We respond to George Anadiotis’ recent take on Percona’s open source data management survey. Most respondents are still actively experimenting with new databases and are not necessarily standardizing any single platform. That same trend applies to the cloud as well. Actually, that doesn’t make them much different from the rest of their IT colleagues.
Written by Tony Baer (dbInsight), Contributor
Credit: Open Source Initiative

At Percona's European user conference last month, Big on Data bro George Anadiotis reviewed the results of its latest state of open source data management survey. He provided the deep dive on the specific technology variants that they are adopting. We'll now chime in with our take – looking at how open source database adoption is mimicking how the rest of enterprise IT adopts technology.

It's not news that enterprises often have one of everything scattered across their technology portfolios, and with open source database users, the reality is not that different.

Keep in mind the Percona community is not a generalized enterprise IT sample. As Percona's core business is supporting open source databases, its community is comprised specifically of database users who have already made the choice to use open source platforms. Some general perspective is provided in why its community choose open source: nearly 80% of them use it for cost benefits, while 60% are motivated to avoiding vendor lock-in. For about half the group, it's not only about costs or openness, but the benefits they get from development that is community-centered.

But back to our initial thought: when it comes to diversity in technology portfolios, open source users are not that different from the rest of the IT population. Let's start with the fact that over 90% of survey respondents use more than one database platform. George characterized it as polyglot persistence.

Given that many organizations are either kicking the tires with open source databases, trying to find the right ones for their needs, there also continues to be centrifugal force, where line of business organizations often adopt databases that are fit for purpose. For instance, they might use MongoDB or MySQL for web applications while using PostgreSQL for applications moved over from Oracle. Among Percona's community, for instance, over 60% are running MySQL and PostgreSQL in the same environment.

Then let's look at cloud. What's interesting is that, given the wide availability of managed open source database services on each of the major public clouds, that Percona community members are a bit more conservative; only a slight majority report running at least some database workloads in the cloud, with 40% of that group using managed Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) services as opposed to just using raw cloud infrastructure. Contrast to other surveys showing that 94 percent of respondents use cloud or predictions that 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020 (OK, we'll take that last one with more than a few grains of salt).

Then there's the question of support. Admittedly, not all Percona community members pay for Percona's support services – only a third of respondents pay for support, although when you narrow it to the "enterprise" segment, that proportion rises a bit to 43%.

So, are open source database users freeloading? The answer is a bit muddled as the Percona community sample does not necessarily include (or slightly overlaps with) subscribers to Amazon's RDS services for MySQL, PostgreSQL, or MariaDB; nor does it include subscribers to Azure's or Google Cloud's managed open source database services. And at the other end of the spectrum, it doesn't include members of shadow IT who are downloading from open source sites or GitHub. Answering the question of whether this is a representative sample is akin to the metaphor of one foot being in a bucket of boiling water and the other in a bucket of ice. Let's split the difference and assume that the majority of DBAs running business-critical applications on open source databases are paying for support, which is even more likely if your organization is a publicly-held company.

As to the question of open source licenses, the response from the Percona community shouldn't be surprising. Respondents were eight times more likely to adopt an open license than the alternative. Of course, given the proliferation of open source licenses or licenses that aspire to call themselves open source, it becomes a very muddy issue. The issue is that in an open source market, how can vendors monetize their IP without having others profit off it? We've had a healthy debate with the Percona folks on this one, given our belief in open core. And that's where the question of security comes in.

Back to the question of cloud – it's not surprising that most respondents in the Percona community who reported using cloud stating that they are using more than one cloud. The survey did not get to the question of whether multi-cloud was formal strategy or inertia, but we wouldn't be surprised if it were mostly the latter. That's not unique to open source community members; as we noted at the beginning, most IT organizations wind up with a legacy of a melting pot of lots of different technologies and vendors; the likelihood is multiplied if your organization has undergone M&A.

On one hand, working with multiple clouds is very consistent with the sentiments expressed by 62% of respondents in the survey for avoiding vendor lock-in. But if your organization is serious about formalizing a multi-cloud strategy, it is in for a repeat of the same issues it has had all along juggling multiple applications, databases, and tooling silos.

Open source has changed both the development and staffing mindsets of enterprises. Practitioners entering the workforce want open source on their resumes as it makes their skills more portable, while enterprises no longer want to either reinvent the wheel or depend on proprietary technologies for parts of the stack that are commodity. But when it comes to choosing databases or clouds, some things never change. Variety remains just as much the rule in the open source world as it was when proprietary technology was king.

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