MySQL's non-heroic future runs Castle Oracle

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OpenWorld It's unheard of for a CEO to slip into his previous company's branded shirt and speak to users - unless the occasion is some kind of anniversary.

Yet the ex-MySQL chief executive and former head of Sun Microsystems' MySQL unit did just that at OpenWorld - the come-to-Jesus mega event run by MySQL's new owner Oracle.

Why would the Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos go back in time for any other reason than to have been brought in by Oracle in a symbolic act to steady the nerves of MySQLers nervous of their loved database's future?

With Monty Widenius and Brian Aker, Mickos was one of the best-known faces of MySQL. But Widenius and Aker weren't present - or, in all likelihood, not invited. They were busy hacking their MySQL forks. Widenius is more than a simple forker. He was a squeaky wheel that rattled against Oracle's ownership of MySQL.

But Mickos, the ever affable Finn, duly delivered the balm, calling Oracle's ownership a victory because a proprietary software company had bought into open source.

Oracle had embraced open source, he said, rather than attempting to kill it, as many assumed Oracle had been trying to do through the predatory purchase of storage engine InnoDB years before.

"Now we are in a state where Robin Hood and his men have ridden out of forest into the castle," Mickos said. Maybe. But Hood's men are about to find the responsibility of running the castle is a lot less fun and more predictable and businesslike than ambushing the enemy in the woods.

Oracle this week unveiled a grown-up roadmap for MySQL intended to make it easier to manage the database with their Oracle software.

Coming to MySQL are tools that make it a better development and runtime environment for Windows, work to boost ease-of-use and availably, and a much, much deeper relationship between MySQL and Oracle's software.

It's the kind of roadmap that - while probably justified in many ways - contains plenty that MySQLers like Widenus and Aker will reject.

I suppose it's just a matter of where you want to go and how far you want to get there. MySQL was growing under Sun. In fact, it was Sun's fastest growing software business. It just wasn't growing fast enough, so Oracle's strapping a rocket on the database's business.

One piece of work already underway at Sun and the independent MySQL that's being accelerated by Oracle is making MySQL work better with Windows.

Windows is now a top priority for a database that's been so closely allied with Linux its name forms an acronym - LAMP - with Apache and Perl/PHP/Python. It's a combo that's dominated web services and open-source programming for the best part of a decade and helped make MySQL's name.

The change under Oracle is coming because MySQL doesn't get many deployments on Windows even though it gets most of the downloads. The implication is that MySQL is being downloaded by developers or for evaluation and that it goes no further.

The reason: lack of GUI-based interface for data modeling and admin, a Windows-like development and deployment experience, and a lack of integration with Windows.

Oracle plans a unified Windows installer, similar to the installer found in SQL Server, along with a Windows Administration tool, entity framework, and connector enhancements.

The really big work order? An interface to Visual Studio, according to MySQL development vice president Tomas Ulin at OpenWorld.

"We have some work to do there. That's one of the highest priorities - to get Windows users this [integrated] experience they are used to on the Windows platform, so they will continue to use MySQL and become MySQL professionals after they've downloaded."

Improved performance is also a goal. Oracle boasted about a 1,561 per cent gain in read/write in MySQL 5.5 over 5.1

InnoDB, now MySQL's default storage engine, is getting multi-threaded purge and it will be prioritized for solid-state drives (SSD). The MySQL Enterprise Monitor will evolve into a management product, with the ability to start and stop back ups and to manage disk space.

There will be integration with Oracle's middleware and business-intelligence applications. Starting with MySQL 5.5, released as a release candidate on Sunday, Oracle's software will be certified to run on the database and therefore qualify for support from Oracle.

Customers will "soon" also be able to move data backwards and forwards between their Oracle and MySQL database following an update to Oracle's GoldenGate data-integration suite - bought by Oracle in July 2009. Currently, you can only move data from Oracle to MySQL using GoldenGate.

MySQL Enterprise Edition will be integrated with Oracle's Enterprise Manager, Audit Vault, and Secure Backup products in calendar 2011, and - again - qualify for support from Oracle.

Kicking off MySQL's serious play is full ACID compliance with MySQL 5.5. ACID guarantees reliable performance of the database and reliability of the data itself.

It's a small but important move, one that puts the database in a new place. One of MySQL's big areas of use has been on web properties like Facebook, where it's being used in a way where ACID properties aren't important.

While the addition of full ACID doesn't mean MySQL can't continue to be used in these sorts of places, it does mean MySQL can be used in the kinds of data infrastructures where Oracle has traditionally been used and were data is more valuable than just your profile on Facebook - inside the operations are of banking, retail, manufacturing,and telecoms companies.

MySQL has been a member of the NoSQL movement, thanks to where it's been deployed and because NoSQL partly defines itself by features such as a lack of ACID compliance. Asked about MySQL's place in the relation to NoSQL now, Mickos and Oracle chief software architect Edward Screven also at OpenWorld struck different tones.

Mickos reckoned the database industry is up for grabs and there'd be room for ACID-complaint and non-compliant databases as they serve different needs.

Screven was less charitable, saying there's been different data paradigms since he joined Oracle in 1986 but that it always came back to SQL. "People want a declarative approach to write queries and express equations in a comparatively algebraic style, and that's where it comes back to SQL," Screven said.

MySQL is changing, in some ways for the better with the addition of full ACID and better support for Windows. It's also changing in ways that'll excite Oracle customers but dismay supporters not tied into Oracle's information portfolio.

Also, changing is the way MySQL is built: sure, Oracle will return performance changes to the community edition, but it's decided to prioritize a roadmap delivering features that serve Oracle's software business. These features will only find their way into the Enterprise Edition of MySQL and Oracle will limit the amount of time and effort it puts into other improvements for the community edition.

Asked at OpenWorld how open-source has evolved, Mickos reckoned it's become more institutionalized - with fewer individual heroes.

"It's now driven by large orchestrated groups... for some people it will be boring because it's corporate, but for others it will be more dependable and successful," Mickos said.

We've gone from the cathedral to the castle, men. ®

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