MySQL's Mickos: Open Source in the Enterprise

The CEO of MySQL talks about competing with Oracle, the growth of LAMP, and the future of open source.
Posted November 17, 2006

James Maguire

James Maguire

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As the CEO of open source database company MySQL AB, Marten Mickos has overseen enormous growth in his company. Some even say the plucky MySQL is starting to threaten industry heavyweight Oracle, though that contest is still very much David and Goliath. At the very least, MySQL, as a major building block of the LAMP stack, earns bragging rights as the leading open source database.

mysql, open source database, MySQL CEO Marten Mickos

Marten Mickos, MySQL CEO

In a wide-ranging interview with Datamation, Mickos talked about his company’s plans, MySQL’s competitors, and the future of the open source market.

Last year, MySQL faced a critical competitive challenge. In October 2005, Oracle acquired Finnish software company Innobase, makers of the InnoDB storage engine. A robust, enterprise-level tool, InnoDB has been distributed with MySQL for several years – and has been a key element of MySQL’s burgeoning penetration of the enterprise market.

Although Oracle stated that it “intends to continue developing the InnoDB technology," its purchase of a key MySQL partner sent a shot across the bow of the open source database maker.

MySQL executives have made no secret of the fact that the company is developing its own alternative to InnoDB. Datamation asked Mickos about MySQL’s strategy in this regard:

Q: Since Oracle acquired InnoDB, I understand the support is as good or better and MySQL has the same contract. If that is true, why are you spending the resources to write your own?

Because we want to be in control of our destiny. We can decide the path that [MySQL] is taking, we can put our own innovations in there. There’s more freedom for us to do things.

Tech Quotes
”We want to be in control of our destiny.”

–Marten Mickos

Q: Earlier this year, MySQL AB renewed its contract with InnoDB, correct?

We have the contract for multiple years, but the storage engine’s lifetime is easily 20 years [until expected obsolescence]. Within that time frame we think it’s important for us to have our own.

Q: What about your homegrown alternative to InnoDB?

Falcon will be coming out as an alpha version in the next month.

Q: Does that mean you’ll be moving away from InnoDB in 2007?

No, no, no. We have customers who are very happy with InnoDB who will continue on InnoDB for many, many years. And we will support them fully. We have the skills to do so and we’ll have everything needed.

These storage engines have long life cycles, so you will see InnoDB and the Falcon engine living side by side for many, many years.

For example, we have the Cluster engine, which we introduced three years ago, which has been living side by side with InnoDB for three years now.

Many say as you come out with the Enterprise version, it is not open source software. I have heard there is turmoil and disagreement inside MySQL over this. What is this about?

The new Enterprise version is open source software. But there is a service component to it that is not. It’s called Monitoring and Advisory Services. It’s a service that runs, it checks your database, figures out if you have any weaknesses in it, like a missing password or if you’re running out of hard disk space.

It’s sort of a DBA [database administrator] assistant, so it does some of the DBA tasks that can be automated. It is not under an open source license.

Q: Can they run separately?

Oh sure, the database works very well without it. This is an add-on when you are a paying customer. We sell it as a service.

And, about internal turmoil, we have very strong internal debates all the time. We had it around this, we have it around every decision we make. We have 300 passionate employees who will stand up and debate.

Next page: Free Downloads and Revenue

[Editor’s note: three of these questions were supplied by Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg; specifically: the questions about InnoDB, about whether the new Enterprise release is open source, and about MySQL’s free downloads.]

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