Florist firm sends EnterpriseDB a bouquet

Lower costs prompted selection over Oracle for specialist app

EnterpriseDB has signed up FTD Group, a florist, as a customer. The move seems to be a vote of confidence for the fledgling database company, which is trying to poach customers from Oracle with the promise of lower licence fees and compatibility with Oracle applications.

EnterpriseDB, whose software is based on the open source PostgreSQL database, remains tiny compared with Oracle. But the win with FTD Group, which follows deals with Sony and Vonage, could help persuade other big companies to bet on its software.

FTD hasn’t pulled out any Oracle databases. But when it moved an external reporting tool from its main production system to a database server of its own, it decided Oracle was beyond its budget and chose EnterpriseDB, says Jason Weiss, software architect at FTD.

FTD processes orders through about 20,000 retail florists in the US and through 200 distribution centres. The reporting tool, based on Oracle Reports, allows the distributors to generate reports about their orders automatically from FTD’s shipping administration system, ARGO.

FTD updated the reporting tool in December and it worked well until February 14, Valentine’s Day, when the surge in requests from distributors turned up performance issues. The problem was significant because the reporting system runs on the main ARGO production servers, and it dragged their performance down too.

The short term fix was to turn off the reporting tool and generate reports manually when distributors asked for them. Longer term, FTD decided to move the reporting environment to a separate server.

“We’re an Oracle shop so we went to them, got a quote and laughed, because it wasn’t even close to being in the budget we were looking for,” Weiss says.

It took a month to rule out Oracle as an option, and by then FTD needed to act fast because Mother’s Day was approaching on May 13. It preferred EnterpriseDB over other low-cost options because of its compatibility with Oracle applications, Weiss says.

“I called and asked if there was any way at all we could make it work, and they got engaged and we had a full working prototype before we signed a contract,” he says.

Setting up Oracle Reports with an Oracle database would have been easy. “Oracle Reports requires you to pick a data store, and then normally you don’t configure anything. [To use EnterpriseDB] we had to convert everything to a JDBC data source,” he says.

He had some problems with the data conversion — Oracle Reports would request only 10 characters when a data field appeared to require 100, for example. But Weiss persevered and got the transition done in about a month. He is running the software on a four-processor Sun Fire v490 Solaris server.

“I’m very pro-open source, I’ve used MySQL and PostgreSQL. The selling point with EnterpriseDB was the Oracle compatibility layer they have on top of it,” he says.

Price was the other key factor. Weiss estimated that FTD saved about US$100,000 (NZ$129,000) in licence and support costs by going with EnterpriseDB. The Enterprise Edition of Oracle’s database carries a list price of US$40,000 per processor, while a Premium licence for EnterpriseDB Advanced Server is US$5,000 per processor.

“I’m definitely using this to put some leverage on Oracle to get them to knock their pricing down,” he says. “We pay a ridiculous amount of money in just support contracts.”

EnterpriseDB doesn’t have everything he’d like, but overall, he’s happy. “We’re looking for multi-threaded replication capability, and I’ve been told it’s coming. But aside from that, the thing runs like a top. We’ve not had a single outage."

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