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Will Oracle kill MySQL? Who cares?

MySQL's already killing itself

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MySQL Suicide

It looks like they will continue to develop and support MySQL and use it to push their proprietary databases on larger customers. Oracle isn't going to flat-out kill MySQL, because MySQL is doing a good enough job killing itself. Case in point: the recent release of MySQL 5.4, which finally integrates significant performance enhancements from Google and others. It took so long for MySQL to accept the community's work that the OurDelta project sprung up to aggregate all of the third-party patches considered to be stable and necessary. As an open source project, MySQL is already a dinosaur.

In fact, it is in Oracle's best interest to keep MySQL moving at a glacial pace. MySQL's biggest technical weakness is scalability. Web engineers use MySQL because it's free, and when they hit a scalability wall, they need to engineer around it by building in database parallelism and sharding. MySQL's performance on a multi-core machine is embarrassing, whereas a database like Oracle really shines on big iron.

What software managers recognize - and often need to beat into their engineers - is that it is far easier and cheaper to throw money at a scalability problem than it is to throw engineering resources at it. In the case of web service providers using MySQL, when they hit a scalability wall, Oracle can now step in and sell them a database and Sun hardware that will fix the problem, no re-architecting required.

So, don't expect MySQL to die. Expect it to stagnate. Of course, the free market of open source will eventually develop something else. The Drizzle project, run by MySQL's director of architecture, is a fork of MySQL that aims to support better scalability. It's not complete yet, but it shows that some users and developers are unhappy enough with MySQL's main line to do something about it. If Drizzle gets stable or something else comes along, many web developers will move on to the New Hotness. With the attention span of a fruit fly, your average web programmer is quick to latch on to new technologies. After all, as a web developer, you can't appear publicly to be older than thirty.

However, even with bleeding-edge development, MySQL will continue to be the open source database leader. The Web 2.0, Ruby on Rails hipster crowd may move on to the next flavor of the week, but other business will still want to pay for help with the database they know and love. Larry Ellison understands that a small, vocal minority thinks they control the future of databases, but real-world business pragmatism is slow to change paths.

"I think every generation thinks that their set of innovations will quickly replace everything that came before," he said in a recent interview is Israel. "I think we constantly come up with new technologies. But those new technologies take a very long time to fully displace technologies that came before." Those sound like the words of a man who wants to sell you a high-performance database so you don't get caught up in open source trendyness.

Even so, Oracle has been relatively tight-lipped over the future of MySQL. While they have stated that the project is not going to die, the reassurances have been less than assuring, like a used car salesman telling you that he's going to give you a great deal.

If anything, this uncertainty is a test of the open source community. Years ago, it taught Larry Ellison hate. Now, Ellison is teaching it fear. ®

Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.

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