Open source database vendor MySQL AB is looking to retain its independence, according to its CEO, despite a recent turbulent period that showed the precariousness of its single-product strategy.
Oracle Corp’s acquisition of Innobase, home to MySQL’s storage engine of choice, started the doubts in October 2005, and they were only increased by Oracle’s acquisition in February of embedded open source database vendor Sleepycat, along with news that the database giant had also been sniffing around MySQL.
Those fears have abated thanks to Uppsala, Sweden-based MySQL renewing its InnoDB agreement with Oracle, as well as launching its Pluggable Storage Engine partnership program and delivering a new engine of its own, called Falcon, developed by senior software architect Jim Starkey.
We have come back even stronger than before, said Marten Mickos, MySQL’s CEO, who also praised the open source community’s response to its situation by coming up with alternatives, such as the PrimeBase XT for MySQL from SNAP Innovation GmbH, a port of the OpenOLAP tool for MySQL, and the Thinking Networks Storage Engine for MySQL.
The main thing for me is that it shows the healing power of open source, Mickos told Computer Business Review, while maintaining that the company’s reliance on Innobase had been overstated. InnoDB was never our proper girlfriend. We were dating her, but that’s sort of where it ended.
While Mickos can joke about the situation now, it did raise very real doubts about the company’s focus solely on the database market making it a relatively easy target for competitors. This is an idea that Mickos rejects, maintaining that anyone who doubts MySQL’s decision to focus on the database should also doubt Intel Corp’s decision to focus on the microprocessor.
We think it [Intel] is a good role model because they focus on the most complicated part of the hardware stack, and we focus on the most complicated part of the software stack, said Mickos. There’s so much software still to be built, and there’s such demand on databases, we believe staying focused is vital to success.
Apart from Oracle’s move into open source, Linux vendor Red Hat Inc’s recent acquisition of open source Java middleware vendor JBoss Inc also put the spotlight on MySQL, with industry watchers speculating that Red Hat needed a database to complete the set.
Red Hat’s CEO, Matthew Szulik, recently dismissed such speculation, telling Computer Business Review: We already have dominant providers in that market, and the space has largely been commoditized already by very established players.
Mickos also rejected the idea that a broad open source infrastructure software vendor would be greater than the sum of its parts. Three years ago people were saying the power of open source is that there’s not one competitor for Microsoft to kill, he said. Now they want some big super merger.
Meanwhile, MySQL has teamed up with Microsoft, joining the company’s Visual Studio Industry Partner Program and developing a new downloadable plug-in for Visual Studio 2005 that will enable Visual Studio developers to quickly build applications for the database management system.
It’s not a big partnership per se, but it is important that Microsoft has agreed to such a partnership, he said, adding that MySQL had been trying to convince Microsoft for some time that in order to compete with Linux it needed to partner with the other three components in the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl) stack.
Their best competitive response would be to do WAMP, the company must not be religious about their beliefs, he said. I think you see across the range companies are becoming less religious about their own stacks. Microsoft is signaling what’s important here is Windows.
As for MySQL’s motivation for entering the partnership: Here we are, huge proponents of open source, but we have actually realized that Microsoft is a pretty popular operating system, Mickos joked, adding that 40% of MySQL’s user base is on Windows.