A MySQL Community Member Opinion of Oracle Buying Sun

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.

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