When I talk to various people about PostgreSQL, based on where they are in the process of analyzing it, I get asked many similar questions. One of the most frequently asked questions is: What is the PostgreSQL licensing model? Here is my attempt to address this question from the perspective of what the PostgreSQL license means for your business.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, we are really not in the habit of reading license agreements – they are best left to the legal department to decipher. And seriously, licenses have become so complex and so detailed that even if I try really really hard to read just a few clauses, my head starts to hurt.
The PostgreSQL License is different though.
I have reproduced the license in full at the end of this blog. Take a look. I guarantee it will take less than 5 minutes and you will understand every word of what it says. Straightforward, transparent, simple to understand – and this is just the beginning of how PostgreSQL makes your life easier.
Yup, you read that right. PostgreSQL is absolutely free to use, forever. All you need to do is download the database, install it, and start using it. You don’t need to get into any contract negotiations, you don’t need to worry about asking for permission from anyone, you don’t need to haggle over pricing.
By now you are probably thinking, “Yeah it’s free but that’s probably the limited edition. The features my organization needs are likely in the enterprise edition, and I would need to sell my kidney in order to get it.” You’d be wrong. There are no ‘editions’ of PostgreSQL. All features are available for you to use in the community version, which is free, forever.
Now you may be thinking – “Ok, so the community probably imposes various different limits to force organizations to pay before they can really scale”. Wrong again!
The PostgreSQL community does not impose any limits to the number of servers you install the database on, the amount of data you put in your database, the number of users that use the database – in fact, PostgreSQL does not enforce any limits at all! This means that no matter how much your organization scales, no matter how much data you need to insert, and no matter many users access and use the database, the nature of the license does not change. So scale away without any worries!
“Wait, what? You mean modify my tables and schemas, right?”
No! Modify the database, the core engine – go ahead, you’re free to do it! If there is a slight little change you need in a particular feature to make it work perfectly for your organization’s specific use-case, you can modify it (or have it modified).
No repercussions, no lawsuits, no audits – you are free to customize PostgreSQL to your own needs. So if PostgreSQL checks off 99 out of a 100 of your checkboxes, don’t get discouraged because of that 1 remaining checkbox. Enhance the database to get 100/100.
And you know what? You don’t even have to call it PostgreSQL after the change.
You have an application that runs atop PostgreSQL and the database needs to be distributed to your clients along with the application? You are free to do so. No obligations. Unlimited instances. That means your clients get to choose a zero-cost database with your applications as opposed to paying an arm and a leg, and then some more, for the ‘privilege’ of using some other database. Now who wouldn’t like that?
None! Zip. Zero. Nulla.
“But there has got to be a catch, right?” Wrong!
In my conversations with various people, I guess the closest thing that comes to a ‘catch’ has been complaints that there is no single organization that ‘owns’ PostgreSQL. Which means, there isn’t a single organization that they can turn to in case they run into trouble.
I actually think that’s far from being a ‘catch’. That’s a tremendous advantage of PostgreSQL: You don’t get locked into a single vendor. There are many organizations that provide professional services for PostgreSQL; and rather than getting stuck with a single provider for your database, you can pick and choose based on the level of service you are satisfied with.
Portions Copyright (c) 1996-2016, The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Portions Copyright (c) 1994, The Regents of the University of California
Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software and its documentation for any purpose, without fee, and without a written agreement is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph and the following two paragraphs appear in all copies.
IN NO EVENT SHALL THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BE LIABLE TO ANY PARTY FOR DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, INCLUDING LOST PROFITS, ARISING OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE AND ITS DOCUMENTATION, EVEN IF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIMS ANY WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. THE SOFTWARE PROVIDED HEREUNDER IS ON AN “AS IS” BASIS, AND THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA HAS NO OBLIGATIONS TO PROVIDE MAINTENANCE, SUPPORT, UPDATES, ENHANCEMENTS, OR MODIFICATIONS.
So tell me, did it take more than 5 minutes? :-)
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