A MySQL Community Member Opinion of Oracle Buying Sun

Dec 16, 2009 / By Sheeri Cabral

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The bottom line: As both a community member of MySQL, and a service provider, I am not worried about Oracle buying Sun and acquiring MySQL in the process. There is no validity to the argument that Oracle will slow down or stop MySQL development — it is not possible, with various forks already in heavy development, and it is not probable, because Oracle has owned the InnoDB codebase for 4 years and has not slowed that development down.

My bias

I use MySQL, and want to see it continue to be developed. I work for The Pythian Group, providing DBA services to clients running MySQL. Together with my MySQL colleagues at The Pythian Group, the services provided run the gamut from rotating logs, monitoring, performance tuning, designing and implementing and optimizing database architectures and schemas and queries and debugging problems throughout the full stack. The only service we do not provide is code patches.

Some of our clients use MySQL Enterprise (and used the binaries when they were different), others use Google patches and the Percona fork of MySQL, and many stay with the official MySQL binary, or popular distributions’ packaging of the official, documented MySQL source code.

If anything, my bias runs more towards “I want to see MySQL continue to be developed” because patching is the only service Pythian does *not* provide.

Does Oracle lose money because of MySQL?

The statement “There is overlap between the niches that Oracle and MySQL fills” is true. The Pythian Group provides system administration sercvices, and DBA services for Oracle and SQL Server in addition to MySQL. We have worked with many clients who want to switch from Oracle to MySQL, in order to save money.

However, in most cases, it is either cost-prohibitive or impossible to switch from Oracle to MySQL. Because migrating often requires significant amounts of effort, many organizations decide to keep the current applications on Oracle and consider starting new projects on MySQL — particularly small transaction, high-volume applications, including web 2.0 applications (for example, a Facebook application).

Is Oracle losing business there? Perhaps. Many companies just do not have the money required to develop technology using Oracle. Microsoft has combated this problem by offering free software (including their SQL Server) and services to small businesses (one such program is here). Many companies choose Postgres or MySQL by default because it is free, or because it is already in use unofficially in their organization.

On the flip side, MySQL loses plenty of business to Oracle and Postgres for lacking some features, or having features that are not well-developed enough. For one client, not having a MySQL equivalent of SQL Loader was enough to stop them from converting from Oracle to MySQL. Other clients have a difficult time figuring out what is the lesser of two evils — Oracle’s well-developed partitioning feature costs $40,000 per server while MySQL’s partitioning is free, but has only basic functionality.

Why I feel Oracle will not slow down MySQL development

If Oracle wanted to slow down MySQL development, they could have put barriers in place when they bought Innobase in 2005. Four years ago, there were no popular forks of and patches to MySQL. The fact is that when Oracle bought Innobase in 2005, there was no alternative to using InnoDB for high-speed, high-concurrency, and high-volume ACID-compliant transactional needs. Thus, if the bottom line was the issue, Oracle would have slowed down InnoDB development or closed the source years ago.

In fact, Oracle actually makes money from MySQL, because Innobase (which Oracle owns) sells the InnoDB Hot Backup program, the most popular hot backup program for InnoDB and MySQL (the free Xtrabackup has started to gain market share, but has not surpassed the official hot backup program yet).

I have had several occasions to talk with Ken Jacobs, who oversees InnoDB. Every time I have talked to him in the past 5 years, he has expressed a commitment to developing InnoDB. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Oracle would put resources into developing InnoDB for 4 years, then turn around and throw away that hard work by somehow slowing MySQL development.

Particularly now that there are InnoDB alternatives — commercial and free. Why would Oracle put money and business into the hands of other companies? If Oracle puts more resources into developing MySQL, they can reap the benefits — including producing more storage engine plugins, that could be free or commercial. Another important fact: MySQL — first as owned by MySQL AB, and then Sun Microsystems — attempted to develop an alternative to InnoDB after Oracle bought Innobase. To date, Falcon has failed to provide anything other than an alpha release.

Why I am wary when others think Oracle buying MySQL is a bad idea

When others spread the fear, uncertainty and doubt that Oracle will somehow kill MySQL, I consider the source. Many people weigh heavily on the fact that Monty Widenius, founder of MySQL, is doing everything in his power to avoid Oracle acquiring MySQL. However, I do not put much weight into his opinion — right now Monty owns a company that has created a MySQL fork, and he wants rights to be able to sell embedded and non-GPL’d versions of his MySQL fork.

Many of the publicly available and popular patch sets (Google/Facebook) and forks (Drizzle/Percona) came about because MySQL — back when it was owned by Monty — was not able to accept patches from community sources quickly enough for the community. Even today, with Sun owning MySQL, a feature patch can take years to get back into the source code, due to this legacy Monty left behind.

Conclusion

While it is theoretically possible that Oracle could decide to slow the growth of MySQL, it is not probable — if Oracle wanted to damage MySQL, Oracle would have caused a lot more damage a long time ago. The FUD about Oracle slowing development MySQL are not valid, and not true. The motivations behind those spreading this FUD are monetary and selfish. As a community member, I have seen Oracle put plenty of time, money and effort into developing InnoDB. I look forward to even more of Oracle’s resources being used to develop MySQL further.

12 Responses to “A MySQL Community Member Opinion of Oracle Buying Sun”

  • Denish Patel says:

    Nice article. Totally agree with you.

  • Dave Levy says:

    Good article, I’d just like to add that MySQL when independent not only couldn’t resource the appropriation of community patches, they refused to when the authors wouldn’t assign rights to them; they couldn’t dual licence other people’s code.

  • dodger says:

    i think your main argument with innodb is not as true as you say, cause innodb was moved to a sencond stage as mysql storage system since Oracle bought it.
    i simply prefer that other company buy Sun, as everyone say IBM might be the best due their contributions at opensource world.

    • Sheeri Cabral says:

      Dodger — I’m not sure what you mean by “second stage mysql storage system” — certainly MySQL thought it was important to develop a transactional storage engine that they owned, but see my point about Falcon. If Oracle had slowed development on InnoDB, almost everyone who uses MySQL would have been crippled too.

  • Heidi Schmidt says:

    I’m not sure dodger was trying to say this or not… I wouldn’t want to put words there that aren’t.

    From my perspective, I would not say that Oracle sidelined Innodb.

    I do think that Innodb could have given more of it’s original propeller head statistics to the embedded MySQL innodb engine.
    As it is, most of the create table(s) to have more complete status output slows MySQL down and doesn’t give as much as the plugin information_schema tables show on Innodb’s site such as the ones listed here at http://www.innodb.com/doc/innodb_plugin-1.0/innodb-information-schema.html

    If Oracle wanted to promote Innodb more the company would have worked harder to put it out there on OTN (oracle tech net)

    It’s hard for me to say if that was an oversight or that other products were chosen for focus.

    I would like to see a little bit more of the information_schema and internals of it supported in the GA release of MySQL.

    For example, Oracle has had for awhile an ORA-0600 Metalink plugin executable with which you can put in the codes found in a trace file dumped to the operating system.

    From there it is easier to see what part of the C code it is related to and begin to orient where to focus attention to a problem.

    If show innodb engine status output could be plugged into such a link then some of the codes would make more sense (to me)

  • suhail ansari says:

    I totally agree with you. The main point is that Oracle is used mostly in large enterprises and MySql is mostly used in non-critical workload. Oracle and MySql doesn’t compete.

  • Sheeri says:

    Suhail — maybe that’s how it works in your environment, but Pythian has a thriving MySQL practice because MySQL is used successfully in many large enterprises for critical workloads.

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  • r1b2 says:

    For me it’s like if Microsoft had bought a linux distrib, they do not have the same goals. An open source software should not be included in a company like Oracle, and should be kept independant. In any case, it is a big disappointment for the open source community

    (To much power in only one hand… I don’t think it’s a good idea!)

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