Pervasive Software, best known for embedded databases aimed at medium-sized businesses, is making the leap into the enterprise with a customised version of the open-source PostgreSQL database.

Pervasive Postgres, available for trial immediately and set for final release next month, is a way for enterprises to take advantage of high-quality, commodified open source-software while escaping some of the limitations of the far better-known MySQL, Pervasive said on Monday. Pervasive is the first big player to give its backing to PostgreSQL, while MySQL is supported by hundreds of companies, including SAP, Novell and Embarcadero.

What PostgreSQL does have is some enterprise features MySQL currently lacks, such as views, triggers, stored procedures, and grid security, the company said, making it easier to port existing applications from offerings like Oracle or DB2. "Pervasive Postgres will be the most advanced and consumable open source alternative for mainstream business applications," said Pervasive chief executive David Sikora, in a statement.

Another plus is PostgreSQL's BSD licence, Pervasive said, which has fewer commercial restrictions than MySQL's licence. For example, software covered by the BSD licence can be customised and
released commercially without any requirement to release the new code back to the developer community - MySQL's General Public Licence (GPL) places restrictions on this kind of development and commercial use. The upcoming Pervasive offering will be based on PostgreSQL version 8, the first to provide fully native Windows support. PostgreSQL 8.0 and MySQL 5.0 are both set to arrive this month.

As with other open source business models, Pervasive will offer the database for free and charge for a range of support packages, ranging from $99 to $4,999 per year per server. Pervasive technicians will be available for five-day engagements to migrate customers from Oracle, DB2, Sybase, MySQL and other databases, and the company will offer custom development, tuning and training services.

Besides services, the company promises a full suite of integrated software and a roadmap for future improvements, beginning with automated installation and simple administration tools. All its improvements will be contributed back to the PostgreSQL development community.

Pervasive's move is important for PostgreSQL, which until now has had no major corporate leadership, according to industry observers.

The trial software is available from the company's website. Pervasive's press release can be found here.

Open-source databases are following a similar path to Linux in the enterprise, according to industry observers, starting from low-end uses and moving up gradually into more important parts of the business. No single company controls an open-source project, and development is shared amongst enthusiasts and employees of various companies. In theory, and increasingly in practice, this development model can provide a low-cost, commodified replacement for much enterprise software infrastructure, analysts say.

A related example is server virtualisation - Red Hat and Novell are expected to announce details of their plans to include this technology in their versions of Linux, possibly using an open-source virtualisation technology called Xen. HP, Intel and AMD are already working with Xen; Intel and AMD are particularly interested in ensuring that Xen works well with their chip-partitioning technologies, which are due out next year.