PostgreSQL developers and advocates notched up a significant win for the open source database following the successful transition this month of the .ORG domain registry to the object-relational management system.
Database vendor Afilias, which maintains the back-end services of the domain name database on behalf of registry operator Public Interest Registry (PIR), began transferring .ORG information across to its PostgreSQL system on January 1 this year. The technical transition from previous domain registry operator VeriSign to PIR will be completed by January 25. VeriSign had hosted the .ORG domain on an Oracle database.
Vice president of operations at Afilias, Ram Mohan said the .ORG database will be based on a standard implementation of PostgreSQL version 7.2, which Afilias also uses to manage the .INFO domain registry. Overall, the transition across to a PostreSQL system should be virtually invisible to .ORG users, he said.
Known mostly as the domain for non-commercial organisations, .org is the Internet's fifth largest top-level domain, with more than 2.4 million registered domain names worldwide.
ICANN selected PIR from amongst 11 organisations that had sought to oversee the .ORG domain registry during an eight-month evaluation process. PIR was created specifically to manage the .ORG registry by the Internet Society, a nonprofit organisation founded to ensure the open development of the Internet.
According to an ICANN statement, selection criteria included the candidate's responsiveness to the noncommercial Internet user community and the type, quality, and cost of the registry services proposed.
Mohan said the decision to award the contract to a vendor deploying PostgreSQL vindicates the database as a reliable, stable management system.
PostgreSQL outguns Oracle
PIR's success was particularly sweet for PostgreSQL developers given that just two of the 11 potential domain operators had chosen the open source database for the job, with most opting for Oracle's competing proprietary database solution.
In a submission to the ICANN forum during the selection process, Oracle marketing representative Jenny Gelhausen took a swipe at the PostgreSQL system, alleging the database lacked "the transactional features, high availability, security and manageability of any commercial enterprise database".
Mohan refuted these claims, saying that any independent agent commission tests on the database would find PostgreSQL maintains all of the above features - and more.
"These comments are a bit of a red herring," he said.
"Our SLAs show its [PostgreSQL database] performance has never been a problem, nor has security.
"The good news is the people who were evaluating the databases saw this also."
Mohan said Afilias was formed to operate the back-end of the .INFO domain registry, which officially opened in July 2001. Like .ORG, the .INFO domain will also be run on a PostgreSQL database system.
The initial decision to select PostgreSQL over closed systems such as Oracle's database suite or IBM's DB2 was driven by the strength of the open-source community, he said.
Mohan said the hardest part of choosing which database product to use in its database management solution was in deciding whether to travel the well-worn proprietary path, or affiliate itself with open source systems.
"No one ever got fired for selecting Oracle, so we asked ourselves, Do we take that option?" he said.
But while open source is generally perceived as carrying a risk element, Mohan said its wide reaching support and stability made it the most appropriate choice for operating the .INFO domain.
"PostgreSQL also boasts of a stable multiversion concurrency control and arguably, has the most robust SQL standards implementation of all databases available," he said.
Taking the reins from VeriSign
Afilias' first task is to bring all of the information related to .ORG domain names back under the one umbrella, Mohan said.
Originally run as a thick domain registry, VeriSign had transformed .ORG into a thin registry. This meant that while top level information for each domain name was kept in one main database, most secondary information relating to these domain names was distributed across registrars worldwide.
With the continual increase in registered .ORG names since its launch in 1999, accuracy of the "thin" domain set-up had become questionable, Mohan said.
As a result, Afilias will return all of this second-tier information back to the main database. This is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Besides Afilias' changes, PIR says it plans to improve the .ORG domain and introduce new services to .ORG users over the coming months, including name locking, site linking, a directory and ID certification. The group says it will also establish an advisory council dedicated to .ORG.