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Martin LaMonica

Staff Writer, CNET

Pervasive Software said it will offer commercial support and services for the open-source database PostgreSQL, the latest attempt to shake up the multibillion-dollar database industry.

Adopting a common open-source software business model, Pervasive said that next month it will offer corporate customers support and training services for an annual subscription fee, ranging from $1,999 for a basic offering to $4,999 for round-the-clock support. With the support services, Pervasive intends to make PostgreSQL a more attractive alternative to corporations.

The company has also created an edition of the PostgreSQL database that includes tools to ease installation. Pervasive’s edition of the database, called Pervasive Postgres, will be freely available for download and Pervasive engineers will contribute to its ongoing development, according to the company.

With the move, the PostgreSQL open-source database will gain the backing of an established commercial company, something that large enterprise customers typically demand.

“This is an important step for PostgreSQL,” said Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Until now, the database has been leaderless and no one has been pushing it or marketing it.”

Yuhanna said that on a technical level, PostgreSQL compares favorably with commercial databases and has some features, including stored procedures and triggers, that open-source database company MySQL’s product currently lacks. PostgreSQL has the same roots as Computer Associates’ Ingres database, which came from academia.

PostgreSQL is used to anchor corporate applications and is popular with developers, but its usage isn’t widely publicized, said Lance Obermeyer, director of products at Pervasive.

There are other open-source databases already on the market besides MySQL and PostgreSQL, including Sleepycat, Computer Associates’ Ingres database and a specialized Java database from IBM now called Derby. Both IBM and CA chose to create open-source projects around their databases last year.

Pervasive, which sells an embedded database and data integration tools, chose to create a support offering around PostgreSQL, rather than others, based on the strength of its technology and its license, said Obermeyer.

PostgreSQL uses the BSD license, which has no restrictions on derivative use of the software, which is most friendly to business customers, he said.

“Three or four years ago, I would have said that the database had largely consolidated around the big three (Oracle, IBM and Microsoft), but now things are opening up for new players based on a disruptive business model based on open source,” said Obermeyer.

Usage of open-source databases, overall, is still tiny compared with commercial databases. But Forrester’s Yuhanna expects that usage will creep up over the coming years as corporations try out open-source products and beef up their internal skills. He forecasts revenue associated with open-source databases will balloon from $130 million now to about $1 billion in 2008.

“We will see about three years from now, older applications will start migrating to open source–that’s when we’ll start seeing them take market share (from established providers),” he said.