Floral giant sends bouquet to EnterpriseDB

EnterpriseDB has signed up the florist FTD, the third big customer win for the PostgreSQL-based database company.

EnterpriseDB has notched up international florist FTD Group as a customer in a vote of confidence for the young database company, which is trying to poach customers from Oracle with the promise of lower license fees and compatibility with Oracle applications.

EnterpriseDB, whose software is based on the open-source PostgreSQL database, remains tiny compared with Oracle, with around 100 paying customers as of April. But the win with FTD Group, which follows deals with Sony Computer Entertainment and Vonage Holdings, 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, said Jason Weiss, software architect at FTD. The EnterpriseDB licenses were about one sixth of what FTD would have paid for Oracle software, he said.

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

FTD updated the reporting tool in December and it worked fine until Feb. 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 get the reporting environment onto 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 said. "We'd had the idea of EnterpriseDB put in our heads by our Sun rep six or nine months before. They said EnterpriseDB does all their PostgreSQL support and we should check them out."

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 said.

"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 said.

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 said.

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 he persevered and got the transition done in about a month, he said. He's 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," Weiss said.

Price was the other key factor. He estimated that FTD saved about US$100,000 in license 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 license for EnterpriseDB Advanced Server is US$5,000 per processor. Weiss said he got no discount for being a public reference customer.

"I'm definitely using this to put some leverage on Oracle to get them to knock their pricing down," he said. "We pay a ridiculous amount of money in just support contracts. I have a serious monetary motivation to kick them out of the door."

EnterpriseDB doesn't have everything he'd like. "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."

His experience as an Oracle customer also made the decision to look at other vendors easier.

"We run their application server throughout our environment, but they don't want to put any skin in the game. When I call customer service I get the same response as anybody else. When I called EnterpriseDB, they jumped."

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