Pranav Pandya, a software specialist, is passionate about open source, and has been trying his hand at open source tools and platforms for over seven years. He has worked with several reputed IT organisations, and now works with Patni. After completing his graduation, Pandya joined a comparatively small company that offered IT solutions to small-scale industries. The company focused on FOSS, and encouraged its clients to opt for open source solutions like LAMP/LAPP technologies.
Proprietary solutions like Microsoft or Oracle were expensive options for small enterprises, and this encouraged them to consider open source, says Pandya. “Features like full flexibility, being free of cost or licensed under GPL, make open source software tempting to both the development team and the organisation. The smaller firms were often enthusiastic about OSS, as it cut expenditure considerably. The database management system, PostgreSQL, was a part of many of the solutions the team worked on,” Pandya adds.
Rendezvous with PostgreSQL
Pandya used PostgreSQL (7.x) as the backend on the Linux platform for four different projects: an Enterprise Label Management System, a Web-based business solution for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), a Web Mailer System and a Project Management Module. Pandya shares details related to these projects, for which he made use of PostgreSQL (7.x):
- “The Enterprise Label Management System (ELMS) provides a graphical user interface that is capable of configuring and managing labels. The system enables multi-user, network-based, bar-code-capable and human-readable label generation services. Since development and maintenance were a part of these projects, support was also provided by my team.
- “The Web-based business solution ERP supports all basic and core modules like finance, sales and distribution, human resource management (HRM), a management information system (MIS), manufacturing, project planning and core modules. The targeted audience were small and middle-sized companies.
- “A Web Mailer System — a list/group management site — was developed for a US client. The project was based on online survey creation and design, list creation, maintenance, template creation and campaigns management. The system works like Google Groups, with multi-layered threading support. PostgreSQL was the first choice to host the application, and it is responsible for the overall storage and retrieval of threads.
- “The functions of the project management module include upcoming client projects and their details, the time allocated for these projects and tracking employee hours. This project was also for a US-based client. PostgreSQL was used as the back-end system, responsible for storage and retrieval of employee and project tracking.”
Factors that pointed to PostgreSQL
Pandya has used other solutions like MySQL, Oracle and DB2 as backend systems. While MySQL and PostgreSQL have the attraction of being free software, PostgreSQL was the clear winner when factors like scalability, performance, benchmarks, availability and architecture were considered.
Pandya elaborates, “PostgreSQL didn’t lag behind on any of the features like volumes, required resources and support. All that we required was taken care of by PostgreSQL. Apart from high-end scalability and performance, the compatibility, ease of development and database administration were factors that drew us towards PostgreSQL. The overall experience was something to cheer about.”
PostgreSQL’s suitability for mission-critical applications
Pandya has worked mainly on PostgreSQL 7.x. The systems for which he used PostgreSQL were for low to medium use, and for a small client base. Hence, he did not worry about high-end scalability or performance.
“Features like scalability and flexibility were an issue in the older versions, but it’s not so anymore. Recent versions like 8.0 and 9.0 are capable of supporting business/mission-critical applications with power, flexibility and robustness,” says Pandya.
Hurdles along the path
We all know that open source is free, and the community contributes heavily to projects. However, as Pandya recounts, “There were times when we had to rely on the willingness of programmers to contribute code without any financial compensation. For example, consider the difficulties endured by the Mozilla project. In contrast to more popular open source projects such as Linux, it had trouble attracting developer participation. Simply throwing an open source party doesnt guarantee that everyone will come,” Pandya adds.
The current situation is much better when compared to the situation in the early 2000s. Online support and documentation were also major concerns in PHP feature enhancements.
FOSS, today and tomorrow
Commenting on the current FOSS scenario, Pandya elaborates, “Open source solutions are encouraged and sponsored by big giants. This gives the open source community a boost, and helps in its growth. We can see that a few solutions, like PHP, MySQL, and PostgreSQL, have registered growth, and are getting a good market share. Even online/offline support, rich documentation, forums and bulletin boards are more prevalent.”
Pandya started his career with open source, and he has been passionate enough to stand by it for years. His dream is to see the youth get more involved with FOSS. “I want young developers and students to understand the benefits of implementing open source solutions. There are many opportunities and websites that provide support to youngsters who will take the open source community forward.”