We present a business case on hard and soft financial factors, as well as risk. Our objective is to look at the comparative 5-year Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) against other major commercial database systems.
Hard Costs and Risk
Cost of license
PostgreSQL needs no license fee. You can install it quickly and easily without a lengthy procurement cycle. The capital cost is zero, so business projects can start easily as prototypes and develop quickly into successful projects. For these reasons, projects can deliver business benefits quicker, experience shorter and shallower cash flow curves and move into profit more quickly.
Licenses for production use cost nothing, licenses for developers cost nothing and licenses for partner companies cost nothing. If you need to expand your use, you can do so without re-budgeting and so your planning need not be as exact.
PostgreSQL is easy to install so there is no hidden additional cost of setup.
Overall, this is the largest single factor influencing TCO, but it is by no means the only one.
There is no license fee, ever. The software license is permissive and the copyright is virtually impossible to change because it its in the hands of thousands of individuals. There is zero risk of retrospective license fees and zero risk that a vendor will perform a costly license audit.
PostgreSQL is secure.
“By default, PostgreSQL is possibly the most security-aware database available.”
PostgreSQL is reliable by design. There are no shortcuts and we are very careful to implement fully reliable algorithms for data protection.
No change to TCO.
Cost of support
Critical software benefits from software support with Service Level Agreements. PostgreSQL does sometimes require fixes; it does have maintenance releases, security vulnerabilities and other issues. It’s living, breathing software that sometimes needs care and attention. Any TCO calculation that excluded support would increase risk, so we include that here as a requirement.
On the above factors, license cost and support cost are dominant. Based upon published prices, our analysis is that PostgreSQL is 12.5 times cheaper than the leading RDBMS vendor. Given a cluster of 6 geographically redundant servers, connected using real time streaming replication, with one master and 5 read-only slaves, we have calculated the prices for license and support as:
2ndQuadrant – $60,000
Commercial vendor – $750,000
Note that unlike 2ndQuadrant, the commercial vendor charges per-socket, so as the performance requirements of the system increase over time, so too does the disparity in TCO.
Ease of development
PostgreSQL is an active open source project with a large number of small changes submitted by developers as they find minor bugs or difficulties with ease of use in tools, languages, documentation, drivers, extensions and add-ons. All essential activities can be performed using free software as well, so there is no requirement for costly additional toolsets.
No change to TCO.
Ease of administration
PostgreSQL has GUI administration tools to help manage databases, as well as command line tools. If we assume like-for-like comparisons, a DBA with 5 years PostgreSQL experience will spend no more time as a commercial databases’s DBA with 5 years experience. In fact, we think it will be considerably less with PostgreSQL, and there are many good examples of people having used PostgreSQL for years without a crash or other problem.
Same or reduced TCO.
Cost of migration
A technology decision need not be forever. You’re adopting PostgreSQL because you are leaving another technology behind. Should we include the cost of migration in the TCO for PostgreSQL? Yes, lets do that. A technology should be easy to adopt and be easy to unadopt when and if it is right to do so. If costs were accounted for appropriately then legacy technologies with deliberate lock-in policies should be assigned the costs of eventually moving away from them. PostgreSQL deliberately follows the ISO SQL Standard and goes to some lengths to avoid lock-ins caused by deliberately non-standard syntax and behaviour.