PostgreSQL Maven Tom Lane Heads to Salesforce

Friday May 24th 2013 by Pedro Hernandez
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The cloud CRM upstart brings a top contributor into the fold as it embarks on a transition to open source.

Tom Lane, a chief contributor to the PostgreSQL project, the open source relational database, is taking up residence at Salesforce.

The former Red Hat employee is expected boost the cloud business application provider's efforts to transition its core technologies to open source alternatives. The news emerged stealthily, as a part of a list of pgCon 2013 attendees.

For the PostgreSQL community, there is no cause for concern. Lane assured that he's not turning his back on his fellow open source collaborators.

In an email to Wired.com's Klint Finley, Lane wrote, "I’ll still be spending 75%+ of my time on community Postgres work (about what I was doing at Red Hat)."

Without giving too much away, Lane added that "Salesforce is interested in expanding their use of Postgres, and I’ll be advising the team that is working on that." He also hinted that the company has "some very interesting database problems to solve."

One possible problem: scale.

Of late, PostgreSQL has made huge strides in improving scalability, a common challenge for enterprises and big cloud companies, particularly those that deliver applications and services to thousands upon thousands of users. PostgreSQL 9.2 scales up to 64 cores and 350,000 transactions per second, compared to 24 cores and 75,000 transactions per second for its predecessor, PostgreSQL 9.1.

Currently, Oracle's database software provides the foundation for many of Salesforce's offerings. Complicating matters is the high-profile rivalry that has brewed between both companies.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison downplayed Salesforce's impact on the market during Oracle OpenWorld 2010. Arguing that Salesforce's technology hardly qualifies as cloud computing, "Salesforce.com is merely one or two apps running over the Internet. It isn't virtualized, is proprietary and has weak security," said the outspoken executive.

Likewise, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff takes a dim view of the competition. "They have not provided the next-generation vision for customer-based systems, whether it is how to connect with your customers, your employees, your partners and your products in an entirely new way," commented Benioff about his company's rivals, namely Oracle and SAP, in November.

Any shift away from Oracle's tech will need to address Salesforce's continued growth and its effect on the cloud CRM company's infrastructure.

"Salesforce.com delivered another quarter of strong growth, with constant currency revenue, deferred revenue, and operating cash flow all growing 30% or more year over year," noted Marc Benioff noted in a statement about his company's 1Q14 financial results.

Revenues reached $893 Million during the quart, up 28 percent over the same year-ago period. Losses amounted to $0.12 per share on a GAAP basis ($0.10 non-GAAP), in line with analyst expectations.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Database Journal and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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