Bruce Momjian: Will Postgres live forever? – Proprietary Software Life Cycle

So this, this is the most depressing slide of the whole deck. Why is it depressing? It’s because I think of all the software that I used. That was really cool, when I was a kid. That is not here anymore. And I know we can all think of some computer games or some really cool utilities we used and just nobody uses them anymore. They don’t exist. Nobody. Why, why why? If I just explained to you that hardware wears out and software doesn’t. Why is a lot of software that we used years ago not around anymore? Well, it could be a bunch of reasons, maybe it doesn’t feel a need anymore, maybe the language isn’t relevant anymore. But there’s a more fundamental issue here. And I want to go through this because as we start to talk about this proprietary lifecycle, we’re going to start to look at how the open source lifecycle is different. And then we’re going to start to think about how the database industry has changed over the period. Because again, as I said before, one of the goals of this talk is, if we’re engineers, and we’re supposed to be able to predict the future, we have to look at patterns of what we’ve seen in the past, to try and understand the future. A lot of people think, today is just today, and therefore it’s going to be just like yesterday, and tomorrow is gonna be like yesterday. But there are these very slow moving changes that happen in the industry that a lot of us miss. I know I missed it until I started to really think about it. And the goal here is to kind of walk through that. 

So let’s talk about the proprietary life cycle. And again, this is one of the reasons that a lot of software that you use, maybe years ago, you don’t use anymore, okay? And that’s because the proprietary software lifecycle is very structured. I’ll talk about open source in a minute, but let’s talk about proprietary. It typically starts at stage one, which is innovation, it’s somebody who’s creating something new, something that doesn’t exist in the market yet, okay? They’re gonna hire some engineers, they’re going to put those engineers in an office, they’re gonna have meetings, they’re gonna have the engineers work on the software, until they can get to a version that they can release to the community, and this might take a year, it might take two years, it might take six months, it’s gonna take some amount of time, we just have to invest in engineers producing software that’s never going to be used yet and not going to be used right now. Okay. 

Then you enter, once you get to something you can release, you enter stage two. And stage two is what we call market growth. In market growth, we have something to sell. And we have to figure out how we are going to grow our market with our new product. You hire salespeople, you bring in marketing people, you run advertisements, you do giveaways, you set up a website, who knows what you do, okay? But in stage two, your primary focus is to get customers, all right. 

But then, at a certain point, you enter stage three, you what we call market saturation. You’ve either got all the customers you’re ever going to get, where there’s another maybe competitor who you’re really not able to supplant. And maybe you’re stuck at 25% market share or 75% market share, or whatever, whatever percentage, you’re basically at, okay. And at that point, you’re really not growing anymore. You’re just kind of stagnant. You’re just kind of flatline. You know, we’ve got customers, we’re producing the software, they’re continuing to buy it at a steady rate, okay. But then, you enter stage four, and this is the stage I call profit maximization. And in profit maximization, the organization is really realized, almost no matter what we do, we’re not really going to get more customers. So what do we do? Okay? Well, we got the customers, they’re gonna they’re paying for the software, they’re probably going to continue to pay for the software. So we’re just going to maximize profit, we spent a lot of money in the beginning to create the software, right. And we sold it for a while, but now we’re kind of just maximizing profits. And at the same time, we’re going to minimize costs. Because effectively profit is, you know, revenue minus costs. So if I can’t grow my revenue, how do I maximize my profits, I reduce cost, I reduce development, I reduce support, I see my company starts to look old, my company starts to look non responsive to customers anymore, okay. And I’m basically just kind of coasting along. And this is a really bad state to be in. Because you’re, you’re effectively getting smaller and smaller and smaller, you’re not bringing in new customers, your customers are probably not happy. There’s no innovation going on probably at this point. 

And then you basically enter stage five, which is maintenance mode. And a lot of software is in maintenance mode, it has no new features, it has no innovation, the only thing that company is going to do is support existing bugs, and maybe upgrade it for new operating systems or new, you know, new platforms. Okay. And then finally, you reach the end of life. And the end of life happens when they can’t make money off the software anymore. And this is where all the software goes to die. Right? The market segment is now so small, because they effectively maximize profit. They haven’t innovated anymore. They’re basically cutting support, they’re cutting development. And now you just reach this end of life stage. And as soon as they can’t make money on it anymore, the software is dead. It’s gone. All right. I told you it was a depressing slide, I’m thinking of some software that I really wish was still around. That’s the depressing slide.

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