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New Oracle MySQL council aims to mend fences

A new Oracle MySQL council within the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) aims to open communication pathways between Oracle and the MySQL community, which thus far have been wanting.

The story is fairly well-known. During the O’Reilly MySQL conference in 2009, Oracle announced its plans to acquire Sun Microsystems, which had recently acquired MySQL.

Groans could be heard throughout the show floor.

It wasn’t a good first step in an acquisition that would bring together the most popular proprietary database with the most popular open source database. And discord within the MySQL community grew over the following months, as Oracle was largely unable to communicate with the MySQL community due to the legalities of the drawn-out acquisition process.

“I think there’s a lot of trepidation,” said Sarah Novotny, a co-founder of DBA outsourcer Blue Gecko and a well-known MySQL figure. “There has been a fair bit of change in the last 18 months in the MySQL community.”

Now Novotny, along with five other Oracle MySQL users, have formed a council within the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) to better communicate their concerns and desires about MySQL to Oracle. Novotny said she sees the newly formed council as a way for the MySQL community to use the IOUG -- which already has ties to Oracle -- to make MySQL “vibrant” over the next many years.

Novotny is the chairwoman. The other five members are Sheeri Cabral from PalominoDB, Bradley Kuszmaul from Tokutek, Giuseppe Maxia from Continuent, Rob Wultsch from and Matt Yonkovit from Percona. The group doesn’t yet have a formal process for telling Oracle what it’s doing right and what it’s doing wrong with MySQL. That may solidify as the council matures.

I think there’s a lot of trepidation. There has been a fair bit of change in the last 18 months in the MySQL community.

Sarah Novotny

Sarah Novotny, chairwoman of the IOUG MySQL Council

Oracle’s investment in Oracle MySQL will determine how many end users stick with it. Last year many of them said they have little loyalty to Oracle, and will migrate to other MySQL forks if Oracle MySQL stops innovating. And since the acquisition, some alternatives have popped up. Monty Widenius, considered the father of MySQL, created MariaDB. Other MySQL AB founders are directors at SkySQL, a MySQL alternative that offers MySQL software and services.

Novotny said the release of Oracle MySQL 5.5 was promising for Oracle’s future with MySQL.

“That was a big deal, getting a new version out in the first calendar year [as the acquisition].”

On the flip side, Oracle’s decision last year to hike up the cost of MySQL support caused some grousing among MySQL users.

Andrew Flower, IOUG president, thinks the MySQL community aligns well with IOUG members, as both are focused on database skills and issues. He also said a recent IOUG survey found that about 40% of its members already run MySQL in addition to Oracle Database. Like Novotny, he acknowledged that the open source MySQL community is probably uncertain how to deal with a large corporation like Oracle, and there is some fear about what Oracle will do with the product. Flower thinks Oracle will continue to develop MySQL as a viable product.

He added that he thinks Oracle is “eager to re-engage” the MySQL community, and that it felt its hands were tied during the lockdown period negotiating the Sun acquisition. This week Flower and Novotny were both at Oracle headquarters, meeting with executives such as Luke Kowalski, an Oracle vice president and the public face of Oracle MySQL.

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