Open-source database PostgreSā€¦

Open-source database PostgreSQL powering GOV.UK portal


The UK Government Digital Service (GDS) has been running PostgreSQL for one year now to power the GOV.UK portal. This open-source database system hosts the central content store underlying the portal, its Content Management System (CMS), and its internal publishing API.

The front-end of this infrastructure is built on Amazon's CloudFormation, EC2 and ElastiCache, and the open-source Memcached engine, which all together provide the system's scalability.

Game day

Last year, the robustness of the PostgreSQL setup was tested in a so-called "game day", in which all sorts of tests and disasters can be simulated in a sandboxed copy of the operational environment. One of the scenarios involved the complete loss of several databases. Local backups were also made unavailable, that way forcing the second-line team to recover the affected databases from an off-site location.

It turned out that these backups were truncated, caused by a previous transition to duplicity, an open-source backup tool based on rsync. So this exercise had an immediate return in the fix of an essential disaster recovery process that would never be executed under normal circumstances.

Complexity of proprietary licenses

PostgreSQL is an open-source relational database management system (DBMS). It is often used as a free alternative to proprietary database products. Specifically the complexity of the licenses for these proprietary products have been brought forward as an important reason for public agencies to migrate to PostgreSQL.

Some examples are the Swedish National Heritage Board, the Dutch City of Ede, and the Dutch DUO agency. According to the people involved in these projects, their traditional proprietary suppliers are also abusing their inscrutable licensing models to hinder public agencies in their migration and consolidation efforts.

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