Computer Business Review

MySQL wants to be Ikea of the database market

by CBR Staff Writer| 06 October 2005

MySQL AB's imminent release of its MySQL 5.0 database will introduce new enterprise features making it more competitive with Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft, but the company's CEO has maintained that it is more interested in mimicking the run-away success of Swedish retailer Ikea than any of the established database vendors.

Version 5.0 clearly is maybe our first and last statement of feature parity, MySQL CEO, Marten Mickos, told Computer Business Review of the new product's support for stored procedures, triggers, and views. We don't compete with the guys who compete on the number of parameters you set, it's not what we are interested in.

While the new features will make the Uppsala, Sweden-based company's flagship database management system more suitable for existing applications beyond its traditional core web serving market, Mr Mickos maintained that the company is still more interested in new web-based application customers than it is in replacing existing database installations.

While new entrants into the open source database market, such as EnterpriseDB and Pervasive Software, have made no secret of their intentions to chase Oracle's market share, Mr Mickos said MySQL is happy to leave them to it.

We are thankful that they are there to define the market, there is no product if you're the only vendor, he said. Pervasive and EnterpriseDB are going up against Oracle. We don't want to be in that space, we don't want to take the heat from Oracle. If you're working in a zoo you don't want to be the one who has to brush the teeth of the lion.

Mr Mickos added that he is more interested in learning from businesses such as Scandanavian retail giant Ikea, cut-price airline Ryanair, and virtual mobile network operator Virgin Mobile than he is the established database giants, citing their focus on service and innovation. The main thrust of the business is in building new things, he said. You can never go in to a new market and just say 'we have a better product,' it wouldn't work.

It's realizing that simplicity does not mean a lack of sophistication, he added, noting that while some competitors might like to boast about 3,500 settable database parameters, MySQL would rather offer 35 settable parameters and hide the complexity from the end user.

Mr Mickos cited a comparison of Oracle and MySQL made my Oracle president, Charles Phillips, at the Vortex Conference in October 2004. We're both in the transportation business, Mr Phillips said. We have a 747, and they have a Toyota. It's a comparison that Mr Mickos is more than happy with, not least since there are many more Toyotas sold than 747s. Toyota is a very profitable company, he added.

While MySQL has added stored procedures, triggers, and views to MySQL 5.0, which is due to be generally available in a matter of weeks after the first release candidate was launched last month, Mr Mickos maintained that many of the company's existing and potential customers will be more interested other new features, such as the federated storage engine.

The addition of stored procedures and the like has meant a long wait for version 5.0, however - a very long wait, Mr Mickos admitted - as the company wanted to be sure that the new enterprise features did not impact the database's performance in serving web-based applications.

The product entered alpha testing in January 2004 and beta testing at the end of the year, and was originally scheduled for generally available at the end of the first quarter or beginning of the second quarter of 2005.

Mr Mickos admitted that the company had made errors in predicting when the product would make it to market but that it had been working to rectify that by bring more experienced management into the company - boosting its headcount by about 80 to 235 this year. We must admit we were just naive in our planning, he said. Previously we didn't have the skills.

Despite the delay and the anticipation for version 5.0, MySQL has still been doing good business, with its existing MySQL 4.1 database and MySQL Network support services offering driving it towards the best quarter in its ten-year history in the second quarter. We had a delay in 5.0 and we told the engineers 'sales will suffer,' but they didn't suffer, so we lost the argument there, Mr Mickos joked.

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