Oracle MySQL end users say it’s still too early to see how Oracle will invest in the open source database platform, but they won’t hesitate to migrate to other MySQL forks if Oracle MySQL hits a dead end.
It has been six months since the Oracle acquisition of Sun Microsystems, a deal delayed largely because of European regulators’ concern over MySQL. Regulators worried that Oracle would shut down MySQL in favor of its own database platform, thus suppressing competition. Oracle responded with 10 commitments to MySQL that will last until 2015. The European Commission cited those commitments as one reason to approve the Oracle-Sun deal.
MySQL runs in a lot of Oracle shops. According to a SearchOracle.com reader survey this year, taken largely by Oracle database administrators and IT managers, 39% run MySQL. That was behind only Oracle Database and Microsoft SQL Server. But analysts, consultants and end users said that Oracle’s primary objective is to support its business, and if Oracle MySQL isn’t making money, they don’t think it will be supported. Oracle did not respond to questions for this story.
“There was a great deal of uncertainty in the MySQL community about MySQL’s future following the announcement of Oracle buying Sun,” said Dan Marriott, director of operations at Answers.com. “However, while we never saw it as logical strategic fit, we would like to hope Oracle follow through with their commitments to keep growing and developing the MySQL community and enterprise editions to retain its mainstream appeal.”
Marriott said his company switched from Oracle to MySQL in 2004, mainly for licensing costs and practical scalability. Answers.com was planning to horizontally scale out its infrastructure on x86 servers, and MySQL was a good fit due to its scalability when you have lots of reads to the database compared to writes.
Alex Gorbachev, chief technology officer of Oracle consultancy Pythian, added that Oracle has shown that it will support portions of its business that produce profit. If it sees the potential for open source to bring in revenue, it will do so. Otherwise, forget it.
“Oracle is all about business, and the same goes for their open source contributions,” Gorbachev said. “If it benefits their business, they’ll keep it. I think it’s pretty clear that the way Oracle manages its open source projects is different from Sun. So they’re not as open as the open source community wants them to be.”
Marriott said that when Sun acquired MySQL AB in 2008, “there was a feeling that things were still going to happen in a good way, that an organization behind it could put more resources behind it.” One end user actually said at the time of the Sun-MySQL deal that his reaction was neutral, though he was happy to hear that Sun bought MySQL instead of Oracle buying it.
The reaction to the Oracle MySQL news was much different. Oracle announced its plan to acquire Sun in April 2009, at the same time a MySQL conference was running. Marriott was there and said a lot of people in the MySQL community were extremely nervous.
Marriott said that, so far, his MySQL wish lists are just that -- wish lists. He is also closely following Monty Widenius, the main author of the original MySQL database, who is working on a fork of the MySQL database called MariaDB while also appealing the European Commission's approval of the Oracle-Sun deal. If Marriott thinks MySQL is hitting a dead end, he may well migrate away from it.
“We do not feel that we have to be locked into [Oracle’s] MySQL,” he said.
One thing Oracle argued during the Sun acquisition was that MySQL wasn’t a competitor to Oracle Database as much as it was an alternative. But Dave Welch, chief technology officer of Oracle consultancy House of Brick, isn’t buying it. He said that Oracle has long positioned itself as competing with SQL Server, so the claim that Oracle Database doesn’t compete with MySQL doesn’t hold water.
“Oracle executives do themselves no favors when their memories get convenient and their logical continuity extends no further than the expediency of the moment,” Welch wrote in an email. “On the contrary, they condemn themselves to not having any of their commitments received at face value by default.”
Gorbachev said he sees Oracle positioning MySQL as a solution for smaller and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and for Internet-based businesses. Gorbachev said that Oracle probably wants those SMBs to run Oracle Database if and when they grow. But that doesn’t mean those businesses will do that. Larry Gordon is CEO of Waiting Room Solutions, an electronic medical records management system software as a service (SaaS)[bb1] company that has been running MySQL for 10 years. He said he wants to continue using MySQL as his business continues to grow.
“My hope is that Oracle continues to develop MySQL as a platform and doesn’t simply look at it as a seeder for Oracle,” Gordon said. “We’re seeing some very mature applications built on these open source tools and platforms, so it would be a shame to change the business model of these companies by stunting the growth of MySQL.”
If Oracle doesn’t further the development of MySQL, Gordon will leave. He has also already looked at alternatives such as Drizzle.
“If other forks end up with a technology advantage, not just in functionality but also in stability, strategic direction and buy-in from the open source community,” he said, “we would consider going elsewhere.”
Mark Fontecchio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.