The Case for Non-Open Source Databases in Your SMB

Paul Mah

I wrote a number of blogs on the use of open source software a couple of months back, where I advocated the use of open source databases in the SMB, among other recommendations. If you have been following my SMB blog, you would have seen my subsequent pieces about deploying free or open source software in the SMB, and also the use of community-driven projects like the WordPress blog system as an internal communication tool.


Of course, the use of open source does pose its own challenges as well, which I elaborated on in The Promise and Pain of Open Source. Yet with so much written about open source software, is there still space left for non-open source software?


Mike Fuller, director of marketing for UK at InterSystems Corporation, thinks there is. I communicated with Fuller via a number of e-mail messages, after he first wrote in to disagree with some of my arguments pertaining to the deployment of open source databases.


Our exchange was both amicable and fruitful, with Fuller sharing his candid thoughts on the value of non-open source databases and other proprietary systems. While I never planned it this way, I obtained his permission to publish an excerpt of his thoughts on proprietary databases below.


On the "free" aspect of open source databases, Fuller wrote:


The bottom line is the choice of technology vendors is complex. Not wanting to pay for licensing the DBMS is primarily a statement about its perceived value, but IMHO it should not be the dominating factor in a SMBs decision process. Though I do agree that for some organisations the option for free licenses and access to its source can be truly wonderful.... for most SMBs it would be value that they would never truly exploit.


On the surface, the argument that most small and medium-sized businesses are unlikely to be able to fully exploit the access to source code - and free licenses - is intuitive. Ultimately though, Fuller was concerned that SMBs might be convinced to use open source solutions without an informed review of alternatives.


What is your opinion of this? Do feel free to share your thoughts and experiences here.


Fuller also brought up a number of interesting points in favor of commercial vendors, which I will elaborate on in my next blog. Stay tuned.




InterSystems Corporation is a global software technology leader with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and offices in 21 countries. InterSystems provides innovative products that enable fast development, deployment, and integration of enterprise-class applications, with a focus on delivering long-term customer satisfaction.

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