EnterpriseDB: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Oracle Licenses. What Is This Oracle Partner Network Anyway?

Blog Update: My original come-on title for this post was a tongue-in-cheek insinuation that EnterpriseDB and PostgreSQL developers have access to Oracle database instances that are not licensed properly and therefore oracle-compatibility in those products would be a form of piracy. I’m probably wrong. I’ll bet EnterpriseDB developers and support folks would never attach to an Oracle instance without paying Oracle license fees and further I’m willing to accept the notion that Oracle would be happy to license a direct competitor to use the Oracle database for reverse engineering purposes. And with that…

In my blog entry about how PostgreSQL is supposedly only 12% slower than Oracle, I focused on the fact that these claims were fundamentally flawed. I encourage you to read that entry for more context.

There is yet another Open Source database called EnterpriseDB that has PostgreSQL at its core. I started digging in to EnterpriseDB just to see what the buzz is. It takes no Google wizardry to find EnterpriseDB making claims to solving problems and saving money. Honestly, I think they get press because of the Open Source phenomenon-or what I call DotCom 2.0 if you get my drift. How can a 2 year old company funded with $28 million venture capital get as much press as these guys? It’s because the term Open Source is involved. Indeed, you don’t hear much about Michael Stonebraker’s company Vertica, which has raised some $16 million in venture capital and is headed by Michael Stonebraker-for crying out loud! Well, I made a blog entry about Vertica back in February, but that doesn’t really count I suppose.

Making Big Waves
Google quickly spits out examples where EnterpriseDB is making waves. For instance, the following articles herald how FTD has managed to move some processing over to EnterpriseDB from Oracle:




That’s all fine and dandy, but I wanted to dig deeper. So, I decided to sit through this webinar presented by FTD and EnterpriseDB. Basically what this webinar spells out is that FTD was reporting against their OLTP Oracle database which was saturating their hardware during their semi-annual peak processing (Valentines Day, Mother’s Day). They needed to off-load the OLTP system so they started looking into solutions. Long story short, they decided to jump past all Oracle products and licensing options (e.g., Standard Editions, etc) and settled on replicating the database to EnterpriseDB and reporting against that database using Oracle Reports. Yep, just tweak a “few” things and slide in JDBC PDS and Oracle Reports is reporting against an EnterpriseDB database. Oh how cool that must seem.

After sitting through that webinar, I downloaded the slides. The one that really caught my eye was:


Odd, what does Sun get by recommending EnterpriseDB into an Oracle shop? Sun was going to get a hardware sale either way, so I don’t get it. In fact, I never understood it when hardware companies recommended one database versus the other. That point seemed weird to me, but that is not what I’m blogging about.

Oracle Compatibility
There is one aspect of EnterpriseDB that I want to blog about-Oracle Compatibility. According to EnterpriseDB website, EnterpriseDB is Oracle compatible:

Making the switch from Oracle requires little or no modification to existing applications. Using our Migration Toolkit, the process is often completed in minutes. In fact, our clients report that more than 75% of their applications are 100% compatible, requiring NO changes to run on EnterpriseDB.

Well, the 75% of 100% is nebulous because even he FTD webinar suggested there is more to it than that. In the webinar FTD discussed how they had to:

  • Modify RDF file for each report to point to the new database (using the profile created in jdbcpds.conf)
    • This is a bit time consuming due to the way Oracle Reports and Reports Builder work -you have to re-point all fields to the new query by hand


There were several things that we had to do to our queries to make them run on EnterpriseDB

  • All date operations were modified to use EnterpriseDB/PostgreSQL functions instead of Oracle’s
  • All columns that had a string operation performed on them in the query itself had to be explicitly cast to an appropriate size
  • ROWNUM references had to be modified to use LIMIT (this is no longer necessary in the new version of EnterpriseDB)
  • GROUP BY and ORDER BY statements modified to use column numbers instead of column names (when grouping or ordering by complex columns)

I know shops that have tens of dozens of reports. That seams like some heavy lifting to me depending on the scale of the project. But that is not what I am blogging about.

How Did We Get Here From There?
The question I have is how in the world EnterpriseDB can claim to enhance PostgreSQL providing an even higher level of Oracle compatibility. I’m trying to figure out how one can claim they’ve engineered a product that acts just like another product without having both of them side by side. I know there are very clever (clairvoyant perhaps?) folks out there that can engineer software that mimics other software without doing nasty things like reverse engineering. But does anyone really think that nobody at EnterpriseDB has booted up an instance of Oracle to at least test their claims for compatibility? Moreover, does anyone think that EnterpriseDB can to support software that claims Oracle compatibility without having at least a few servers in their support labs running Oracle?

I just spent some time rummaging through Oracle’s Partner list. I’m probably blind, but I didn’t see EnterpriseDB there. Well, that would be odd since they are trying to directly compete with Oracle-what with selling an Oracle-compatible database and all. Maybe there really are no EnterpriseDB employees that have access to Oracle instances. Maybe.

Where’s Waldo
I don’t think EnterpriseDB is trying to sell and support an Oracle-compatible database without having access to Oracle database software for development, test, and support purposes. And I don’t see them as a member of the Oracle Partner Network. I seriously doubt they cut a PO to purchase licenses, and even if they did, they would be in violation of the EULA because you know for certain you can’t buy Oracle software to help you make software that directly competes with Oracle. So where did they get the software? I suspect they got it from the OTN software download page. Now that is just my suspicion, but if I’m right, they were required to read and acknowledge the license agreement which wouldn’t likely include license to directly compete with Oracle, but I could be naïve. How coincidental, there was a related thread on the oracle-l email list today about using Oracle on VMware and how to license it.

The VMware-related thread centered around the fact that while people wouldn’t use Oracle on VMware for production purposes, they do just fine using it for development and test purposes. At one point during the thread I caught on to the notion that people were just throwing Oracle on VMware instances without concern for Oracle licensing by stating the following:

…this insinuates you don’t see the need to properly license Oracle for development purposes. Am I missing something?

Within minutes there was a post on the list that read:

You don’t need to pay for licences for development systems


“All software downloads are free, and each comes with a Development License that allows you to use full versions of the products only while developing and prototyping your applications.”

I followed up immediately in this post with:

…Oh how I knew people harbor that silly misconception. You have to read the license when you download. That very URL has 2 boxes. One to affirm you are not going to export the software to Libya the other says this:

“You may not:

- use the programs for your own internal data processing or for any commercial or production purposes, or use the programs for any purpose except the development of a single prototype of your application;

[ text deleted]

- continue to develop your application after you have used it for any internal data processing, commercial or production purpose without securing an appropriate license from us, or an Oracle reseller;”

The license for using database software downloaded from OTN allows you to make a single application prototype. Once that application is deployed you have to license it. Further, once that application is deployed you cannot continue to develop it with the downloaded software without proper license. It is right there in black and white.

So how would poor EnterpriseDB get Oracle software so they can continue to develop and support a directly competing database product? Well, they certainly can’t use the bits they downloaded from OTN as I’ve just covered. They could join the Oracle Partner Network.

Well, EnterpriseDB? What’s your OPN number?

I know, I’m probably off base entirely on this one. I doubt EnterpriseDB would have gotten funding from so many venture capital firms to build a house of cards on shifting sand.

17 Responses to “EnterpriseDB: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Oracle Licenses. What Is This Oracle Partner Network Anyway?”

  1. 1 LewisC July 21, 2007 at 12:34 am


    I can’t answer the licensing/engineering questions. I just don’t know the answer.

    I also attended the webinar. All in all I thought it was pretty good. I think the guy from FTD was pretty pissed off at Oracle. He said several times that he was not happy with the support group or with the licensing.

    I thought it was weird on this slide:

    * All date operations were modified to use EnterpriseDB/PostgreSQL functions instead of Oracle’s
    * All columns that had a string operation performed on them in the query itself had to be explicitly cast to an appropriate size
    * ROWNUM references had to be modified to use LIMIT (this is no longer necessary in the new version of EnterpriseDB)
    * GROUP BY and ORDER BY statements modified to use column numbers instead of column names (when grouping or ordering by complex columns)

    I have not used enterprisedb with Oracle Reports but I have worked quite a bit with the database. I *believe* items 1 and 2 are directly related to reports because I have not had those issues.

    Item 3 has been fixed. I have never run into item 4. I have done some fairly complicated queries and not need to resort to column numbers. It may be specific functionality that requires it.

    I have run into data type conflicts. I would expect an integer to work as a number but sometimes a function won’t recognize the number (which then has to be cast to an integer???).

    All in all, EnterpriseDB is a nice database. I’m not sure about the % of compatibility but many of the things you would expect in Oracle are there.

    I’m not sure about pirating. I mean is having a “decode” function pirating? If they have someone tell them what a decode is and then write one, is that pirating? DB2 has a decode as of the latest release.

    You make some good points but I am not a lawyer. I like databases though and having another Oracle compatible seems like a good thing to me as a consultant (although at the moment I am perm dweebish).

    Take care,


  2. 2 Matthew Zito July 21, 2007 at 3:16 am


    I typically find myself in violent agreement with you, but in this case, I think you’re way off base. First of all, you attack EnterpriseDB for the amount of press they get and the amount of money they’ve raised vs. Vertica. However, Vertica has raised 23.5m without getting any customers or shipping any product, while EnterpriseDB has gone through several versions of their product and booked “millions” of dollars of software license revenue – pretty impressive. I suspect the amount of press they get is due to the fact they have customers, make money, and have a clear and consistent message.

    Second, it’s pretty harsh to accuse another company of theft without any actual facts to back it up. We have no idea whether they’re an OPN member – not showing up in the catalog doesn’t mean anything (my company, GridApp, is an Oracle partner and we don’t show up in the catalog). Maybe they bought licenses for EE. Maybe they used an OTN copy to build an internal model of the query language and then got rid of it. The OTN license actually explicitly says that reverse engineering is legit if its for the purposes of “interoperability”, which clearly this qualifies as. The point is, we don’t know they’ve done anything wrong, there’s all sorts of reasons to believe they haven’t, and no evidence that they have. So why refer to it as “the best pirated Oracle-compatible database available”?

    As far as the “oracle licenses are free for development”, yeah, I’ve never understood why people thought that was either. OPN is good for many things.


  3. 3 kevinclosson July 21, 2007 at 5:39 am


    I’ll take that. However, notice there is a difference between the title of the post and the content. I did lead with “OK, maybe pirated is a strong word, read on…” after all.

    You are right. I have no idea just how righteous EnterpriseDB and the PostgreSQL community in general are. Who knows, maybe they buy so many Oracle licenses they get special discounts. After all, why wouldn’t Oracle be tickled pink to license use of their product to a direct competitor!

    Let me put it to you this way. Tonight I will sleep well knowing I’ve NEVER used Oracle software outside the scope of proper license and that dates back to 5.1.17. On the other hand, I’d bet dollars to donuts that there are handfuls of well-meaning contributers to the PostgreSQL code line that have Oracle instances up and running on their development machines. You simply don’t get that much open source oracle-compatible code without at least a few developers downloading from OTN and going to work. I could be wrong. It could be that every line of code that makes PostgreSQL and EnterpriseDB oracle-compatible was contributed by professionals using fully licensed Oracle installs. Or yeah, maybe every contributer of oracle-compatible features in those products are OPN members. Sure, no problem.

    Maybe I’m nuts, I’ll grant you that. Maybe Larry Ellison himself handed a site license to the folks that are coding a product that claims to replace the Oracle database.

    Yes, I’m crabbier than normal today. Anarchy doesn’t turn me on. Matt, I’ll likely see you at OOW. Let’s beer over this one.

  4. 4 Paweł Barut July 21, 2007 at 7:33 am

    They could also use Oracle XE which is not EE but still very powerful. You do not have partitioning, but most of SQL syntax does not differ.


  5. 5 Stéphane Faroult July 21, 2007 at 1:13 pm


    Funny like all this reminds me of 25 years back, when some aggressive small database startup was claiming full compatibility with IBM’s DB2 … keywords were identical, everything was identical. Even for tools like the data loader, similarity was striking. They even improved similarity as as versions were released – I remember that what was called “partition” in a version became “tablespace” in the next. It is true that at this time, DB2 was a pure MVS product while the said startup had targeted the VMS customer base initially. But they ported their software to VM/CMS (to compete with SQL/DS) and to MVS at one point. I wonder if they had licenses. If I remember correctly, their CEO was an ex-Amdhal.

  6. 6 Andrew Kerber July 21, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    We do need to remember that Oracle creates some of its own problems in the licensing arena by their nebulous and hard to follow rules , and very high prices. Obviously we make every effort to follow the rules, but one time when we asked a simple question about development licensing, Oracle started coming down like the spanish Inquisition on us, all but accusing my company of piracy just because we asked for a clarification on the development licenses. In fact at the time, we were already fully licensed, and we just wanted to find out if we could save some money.

  7. 7 TC July 23, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Hmmm. I think you’ve over-engineered this one. If a computer doesn’t work, I always check to see if it’s plugged in first.

    If someone says they have developed an “Oracle-compatible” database, I think perhaps Oracle has been around for a long time, and perhaps Borders has a book on PL/SQL that people can read and internalize and which doesn’t require a copy of Oracle’s database, nor would I ever need to talk to anybody from Oracle in order to simulate.

    If people are doing the wrong thing they will be found out. But methinks there is a rat here when you fire a cannon at this point in the discussion, when you haven’t even done basic research.

    Who’s paying you for your opinion?

  8. 8 kevinclosson July 23, 2007 at 5:44 pm


    You’re missing most of the point. The point is companies like EnterpriseDB can’t even have Oracle instances up for testing and support without proper license. By the way, can I possibly be any clearer about the fact that I am only raising the suspicion while alerting people to the true contents of the OTN license agreement.

    I’m independent. No one paid me to be curious about how a company like EnterpriseDB can claim compatibility and offer support of same without having instances of Oracle up in their labs and unless I’m blind I don’t see EnterpriseDB in the Oracle Partner Network

    That’s all, nothing sinister.

  9. 9 Andy Astor July 23, 2007 at 8:29 pm


    Thanks for blogging about us. While I might quibble with your title and a couple of your points, you’ve clearly spent a lot of time and energy understanding the EnterpriseDB offering. I appreciate that. For the most part, your understanding of our business is accurate. To address a couple of the issues you raise:

    1. “How can a 2 year old company funded with $28 million venture capital get as much press as these guys? It’s because the term Open Source is involved.”

    Well, being affiliated with open source is certainly helpful to us, but I think you’ll find that we get a lot more press because of the sound business benefits we provide to the over 125 customers that purchased EnterpriseDB in our first 18 months in the market. These companies include Sony Online Entertainment, Vonage, and FTD. Nothing drives press coverage like customer stories. In terms of getting coverage for our open source affiliation, we’re certainly the largest PostgreSQL company in the world. But you should also know that the EnterpriseDB Advanced Server product is actually commercially licensed, and is not open source.

    2. “What does Sun get by recommending EnterpriseDB into an Oracle shop?”

    By recommending to its customers the most effective and efficient solution available, Sun benefits enormously by being viewed as a true business partner. Clearly, Sun believed that EnterpriseDB provided the best value for FTD’s situation and requirements. And judging by FTD’s reaction, they were right.

    3. “The 75% of 100% is nebulous because even the FTD webinar suggested there is more to it than that.”

    You’re absolutely right. The FTD applications were Oracle Reports® applications, so I’m not surprised that they required changes. But most of the applications we encounter (about 75% of them) are 100% compatible. The FTD applications simply do not fit into that category.

    4. “The question I have is how in the world EnterpriseDB can claim to enhance PostgreSQL providing an even higher level of Oracle compatibility.”

    Compatibility has a long tradition in the technology business. Some of the most celebrated examples of the past couple of decades include (a) Amdahl and IBM, (b) MCI and AT&T, (c) Dell and Compaq, and (d) Linux and Unix. Indeed, in the case of Linux, I think most would agree that Linux succeeded because of its compatibility — and lower cost — rather than its technical superiority. We offer a phenomenal database with compatibility at a fraction of the cost. It’s really that simple.

    In terms of our development methodology, this is simply not an appropriate forum for a debate on licensing and legal issues. Suffice it to say that we have retained excellent legal advice from the start, and that non-Oracle-based sources have everything you might need to develop a compatible product. Take a wander in your local Barnes and Noble. Again, though, this is not the place for a detailed development methodology discussion, and I won’t discuss this issue further in this forum.

    I hope this response is helpful, and that you continue to follow us in the market. By the way, look for the forthcoming “EnterpriseDB: The Definitive Reference” by Oracle ACE Lewis Cunningham, coming soon to a bookstore near you…

    Andy Astor, CEO
    EnterpriseDB Corporation

  10. 10 Donald K. Burleson July 27, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    >> That’s all, nothing sinister.

    Uh Huh, sure, whatever you say. I;m sure that your choice of URL was totally innocent:


    It worked too, a classic smear job:


    Oh, and who says “reverse engineering” had to be used? Are you an engineer, Kevin?

    Software engineers tell me that they don’t need to reverse engineer something to replicate it’s functionality.

  11. 11 kevinclosson August 4, 2007 at 5:22 am


    You have now officially been added to the circle-file on my blog. That is a very difficult feat to accomplish. You either didn’t read the post or you didn’t understand it. Either way, you followed up with trash and I’m not having any of it on my blog.

    That mess between you and Jonathan Lewis bled over to my blog and I cleaned that up as per your request but then you come up with this Gomer Pile move on this Oracle licensing thread. Not smart.

    Andy Astor has proven himself a class act with his comment herein. Don, learn a lesson.

  12. 12 kevinclosson August 4, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Andy Astor Wrote:
    “In terms of our development methodology, this is simply not an appropriate forum for a debate on licensing and legal issues. Suffice it to say that we have retained excellent legal advice from the start [text deleted]”

    “Again, though, this is not the place for a detailed development methodology discussion, and I won’t discuss this issue further in this forum.”

    …Consider it my personal crusade. After having been an Engineer in a software startup who paid the Oracle Partner Network dues, I just get suspicious that others are not as prudent. Andy, thanks for your comment, but it does not appease my morbid curiosity about whether EnterpriseDB manages to support an Oracle-compatible database without having a single instance or Oracle running in labs. Your comment does not confirm, nor deny whether you have Oracle running in your labs.

    I’ve received a lot of noise email from people reminding me that it is possible to “match paint” as it were, but I question the likelihood that such claims of compatibility could be made without having touched the targeted software. But hey, that’s just me and this is just my blog.

    Using Amdahl/IBM as an example is interesting, although I wonder if Amdahl did what they did without having touched an IBM mainframe? Or better yet, whether IBM license terms of the day would have been iron clad against the unthinkable (producing a mainframe clone). I don’t know the answer to these rhetorical questions, but they are moot nonetheless. The important thing to me (personally) is what people do with software downloaded from Oracle Technology Network. At this point it seems clear to me that I am the lone crusader of this issue.

  13. 13 Connor August 5, 2007 at 3:12 am

    Especially when you chuck in things like Apex. Now you can download “free” database from OTN, and a “free” rudimentary app builder and your “prototype” is off and going…

    On the other hand, just as vigorously as Oracle work their licensing, their own consultants are just as vigorous in pushing a line of “its all free! grab what you want” without putting a prerequisite asterisk next to the word “free” :-)

  14. 14 Curt Monash August 20, 2008 at 10:43 am


    I just found this old thread.

    I suggest you reread Stephane’s comment, since the point of it evidently zoomed over your head, and consider which company that might be referring to. (Hint: It’s Oracle.)

    In the 1980s, Oracle kept talking about a port to the IBM mainframe, and having a little trouble delivering. Indeed, I started referring to the figure of two years away as being “Larry Ellison’s Constant.” But then one time I was chatting with his admin, the incomparable Jenny Overstreet, and asked her if the port was going to be shipped any time soon. Her response was, and I quote:

    “Let me put it this way — I’m sitting here reading an MVS manual.”

    As Larry often told me, Oracle made great use of what might be regarded as other companies’ trade secrets in the 1970s and 1980s. If he was morally right then, and I think he was, EnterpriseDB is morally right now. I’m not going to pretend to know the legalities here, specifically as to whether Oracle licenses allow compatibility engineering (if they do, it’s probably due more to anti-trust pressures than general public-spiritedness). But, even in the worst-case scenario for EnterpriseDB, which would be that licenses are written more tightly today than they were in the old days, and the effect is to put EnterpriseDB on shakier legal ground than Oracle was, I think it’s a big non-issue.



  15. 15 Michael R Berger October 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Uh, correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Mr. Amdahl wrote much of IBM’s mainframe prior to going independent…

  1. 1 Log Buffer #55: a Carnival of the Vanities for DBAs : Ardent Performance Computing Trackback on July 27, 2007 at 4:11 pm
  2. 2 Nearly Free or Not, GridSQL for EnterpriseDB is Simply Better Than Real Application Clusters. It is Shared-Nothing Architecture After All! « Kevin Closson’s Oracle Blog: Platform, Storage & Clustering Topics Related to Oracle Databases Trackback on August 9, 2007 at 10:41 pm

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