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Motivation to Migrate RDBMS

Companies that use a standard edition of Oracle’s database software should be aware that a rapidly approaching deadline could mean increased licensing costs.

Speaking from experience (at both MySQL AB and Open Query), typically, licensing/pricing changes such as these act as a motivator for migrations.

Migrations are a nuisance (doesn’t matter from/to what platform) and are best avoided as they’re intrinsically painful, costly and time-consuming. Smart companies know this.

When asked in generic terms, we generally recommend against migrations (even to MySQL/MariaDB) for the above-mentioned practical and business reasons. There are also technical reasons. I’ll list a few:

  • application, query and schema design tends to be most tuned to a particular RDBMS, usually the one the main developer(s) are familiar with. Features are used in a certain way, and the original target platform (even if non deliberate) is likely to execute most efficiently;
  • RDBMS choice drives hardware/network architecture. A migration should also include a re-think of this, to make optimal use of the database platform;
  • it’s quite rare (but not unheard of!) for an application to perform better on another platform, without putting a lot of extra work in. If extra work is on the table, then the original DB platform should also be considered as a valid option;
  • related to other points: a desire to migrate might be based on employees’ expertise with a particular platform rather than this particular application’s intrinsic suitability to that platform. While that can be a valid reason, it should be recognised as the actual reason as there are obviously cost/effort implications in terms of migration cost and other options such as training can be considered.
Nevertheless, a company that’s really annoyed by a vendor’s attitude can opt for the migration route, as they may decide it’s the path of less pain (and lower cost) in the long(er) term.

We do occasionally guide and assist with migrations, if after review it looks like a viable and sensible direction to take.

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The Data Charmer: Is Oracle really killing MySQL?

An insightful post for my former  (MySQL AB) colleague Giuseppe Maxia about how Oracle’s actions affect the MySQL landscape.

My own comment exploring why it’s happening (from Upstarta perspective) is on his blog post rather than here. From Open Query’s business perspective, we generally deploy MariaDB unless client prefers distro stock. We get the features we need in MariaDB, see the bugfixing and have an open dialog with the developers and see the development process.

While the current new code coming from Oracle definitely has interesting components, MariaDB has solved some real problems (such as subqueries), and integrated useful engines such as Sphinx, FederatedX, and our on OQGraph.

As long as Oracle does useful things for MySQL, MariaDB will keeping picking up those changes also. If/when it doesn’t, MariaDB is still viable. Its team has the necessary expertise, experience and vision. So that has been and will remain our approach to this matter. I don’t see the landscape now as different from when we made that decision.

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Wikileaks Cable Offers New Insights Into Oracle-Sun Deal | PCWorld Business Center

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Oracle Blamed for Laws of Nature

A catchy headline, and I believe more accurate than Oracle Puts the Squeeze on SMBs with MySQL Price Hike (Network World) and MySQL price hikes reveal depth of Oracle’s wallet love [MySQL Jacking up MySQL Prices] (The Register). Slightly more realistic is Oracle kills low-priced MySQL support (again The Register).

First, let’s review what Oracle has actually done: they ditched the MySQL enterprise Basic and Silver offerings. For Oracle, that makes sense. Their intended client base is “enterprise” (high end, think big corporates) and their MySQL sales and cost structure reflects this. It’s not a new thing that came with MySQL at Oracle, because MySQL at Sun Microsystems and MySQL AB before it had the same approach.

A company simply cannot operate below its market – that is not simply a matter of choice, instead it is dictated by their processes and cost structure. Smart people like Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School have done ample research on this, here I’ll just give one simple example:

If you hire a sales person on commission and their quarterly quota is $100k, then they have to talk with clients that have at least a $10k-$20k potential (qualified leads), and they need to close (sign contract) with at least 10 within the period. They simply cannot spend any time on talking with potential $1k customers.

We may lament this state of affairs, but you can see how, given the choices made (sales person hired, commission system, quota), it’s as inevitable as an apple falling when you drop it. The way I describe this at Upstarta: if a company wants different results, they need to make sure that their business processes and cost structure lead them in that direction. But the simple fact is that most companies don’t have an internal feedback cycle that keeps an eye on these things, so they just go with the flow of consequences of common choices: aim for large(r) clients, grow turnover, get higher operational costs along the way – that in itself is a cycle and the only direction this particular one can go is up. As a natural consequence, over time old low-end offerings and clients need to be jettisoned – one way or another.

I say horay for Oracle to finally acknowledge this, since Sun Microsystems and MySQL AB before it did not (for whatever reason). This is years overdue. Whether the original MySQL company should have aimed to also serve smaller clients also is an entirely separate topic – and one which I covered at length previously (including internally in my time at MySQL AB), but it’s very much a station long passed. Once you float upward in the market, you can’t operate or move downward.

Now, are SMBs using MySQL actually getting squeezed by Oracle? They are not. There is no lock-in. This is about service contracts, not licensing. As we all know, MySQL is GPL licensed and internal use (even on a website or SaaS offering) is well within GPL parameters. There are a number of different companies offering service for MySQL, different types of service and delivery models and a corresponding wide range of pricing. So SMBs and anyone else has a choice, each can pick the type of service most suited to their needs. Let us celebrate and promote that freedom within the MySQL ecosystem, rather than being outraged about dropped apples falling!

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Ken Jacobs leaves Oracle

Matt Asay writes today in Oracle loses some MySQL mojo about Ken Jacobs leaving Oracle. For me, that’s a major bummer. Ken has been a long-time visitor of the MySQL Conference and that’s where I first met him: a friendly and knowledgeable person, on database technology in general but also about MySQL. When Innobase Oy got bought by Oracle, InnoDB got placed under Ken’s leadership and did pretty well there. We’d occasionally exchange emails, and I’ve always found him to be responsive and helpful.

I think it was kinda presumed by people that the technical part of MySQL at Oracle would also reside with Ken. Obviously now, that’s not going to be the case. What that means exactly, I don’t know as I am not familiar with the other person (Edward Screven). We’ve got to know Ken over the years, so it would’ve been nice to keep going with him. Ohwell.

Now we’ll see what Edward does with it all, and how he will interact with the MySQL community. And I wonder what new adventures Ken might be off to, if any?

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Petition for MySQL consideration in Oracle+Sun merger

MySQL requires special consideration in the Oracle+Sun merger, otherwise both Oracle and MySQL users and vendors will literally pay the price. If you agree, please sign this petition now.

To be very clear, Open Query is in favour of the merger, we feel that overall it’s a good fit. We would also like to see it happen quickly, as obviously this is best for Sun employees and clients, as well as Oracle’s broad business prospects.  Read more

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The Future of MySQL (EU Crunch Time)

You’ve probably seen Monty’s post Help Saving MySQL. This is about

  1. Development (will Oracle put significant effort into MySQL, actually innovating)
  2. Brand (“MySQL” has a huge footprint), the trademark owner can enforce this – there have already been issues with companies offering MySQL related services via Google AdWords not being able to use the word MySQL in their ad text even though it was correctly used as an adjective.
  3. Forking is fine, but still has to deal with the branding. For MySQL, that’s possibly the most significant issue of any OSS product ever encountered. You’re not competing against a company, but against an existing brand footprint that you (because of the trademark) have to steer clear of. So “just fork it” is not an easy or short term option, there’s more involved than technical/development work.
  4. Code IP – to some degree (IMHO less important), it’s the thing that enables dual licensing. I regard dual licensing as a pest that’s best got rid of.

The really important thing to realise is that this is not about “killing Sun to save MySQL”, or “sending the right message to investors”. The former is merely a consequence of Oracle’s unwillingness to discuss any other option (whether rightfully or not, that’s just a fact) and the latter has no direct bearing on what’s right for either MySQL or Oracle – it’s definitely a factor that the investor world may consider, but it wouldn’t be a consideration for the EU.

With all that noted… please look at Monty’s post, he provides options and links to for you to action whichever way forward you feel is appropriate, whether for or against or neutral towards Oracle being able to take over Sun with MySQL in unmodified fashion. I think it’s good for more users (essentially interested parties) to express their opinion, since Oracle has managed to mobilise its own customers to flood the EU with their angle. While valid, the result ends up being a tad one-sided!

As I wrote on my comment/update on the Possible Movement in the Oracle/Sun/MySQL/EU Case, it’s unfortunate that the rumour suggesting that Oracle was willing to have MySQL as a separate business entity turned out to not be true, as I reckon it would have been a useful outcome for both Oracle and MySQL. A company can’t/won’t disrupt itself, and there are serious business-related “conflicts” to deal with if a single company sells both both products. Corporate structures and sales will always make decisions to steer away from competing with itself, and generally choose the most profitable road. Which one of the two that is in this case is not relevant, my take is that in the market both Oracle and MySQL have their place, so having either one lose out would not be good.

Irrespective of good intentions, companies do abide by certain rules – well actually many companies are ignorant of them and waste tons of money essentially trying to defy gravity. In any case, for me the issue is not with Oracle having good intentions or mistrusting that, the issue is that not even Oracle can defy gravity. The effort will go where the money is.

Remember what I quoted long ago about IBM and the PC? (Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen), IBM planted the new department in another state with its own management and finances, because they knew that in the corporate/management decisions, inevitably the existing mainframe business would win and thus prevent any cannibalisation (from within) of its position. In a nutshell, a company can’t disrupt itself. It’s well documented. I think that overall, the Oracle/Sun deal is a good match. But also, I think MySQL needs to be handled properly to make sure that both MySQL and Oracle (the db product) will thrive in the future. I feel that’s what’s important.

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Possible movement in the Oracle/Sun/MySQL/EU case

From NY Post: Oracle Leader Blinks – Larry’s Olive Branch (to the EU), the NYpost sources apparently say that “what […] Ellison is proposing is the creation of a firewall between MySQL and the rest of the combined company, and possibly setting up an entirely separate board for the MySQL business.”

There is no independent confirmation of any of this, so it may be true, or just air, or a trial balloon to see how other parties respond… I’m not going to add opinions to this, I just reckon it’s an interesting progression in the case. We’ll see how it pans out.

Update: so it’s not true (see Reuters).

(so now I’ll add my opinion…) Unfortunate in a way because from my perspective it would have actually been a useful outcome for both Oracle and MySQL. A company can’t/won’t disrupt itself, and there are serious business-related “conflicts” to deal with if a single company sells both. Corporate structures will always make decisions to steer away from competing with itself, and go for the most profitable road. Which one of the two that is in this case is not relevant, the point is that in the market both Oracle and MySQL have their place, so having either one lose out would not be good.

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Market share vs market impact

This is very relevant in the context of the EU probe of the Oracle-Sun takeover. MySQL’s share of the database market, which is usually measured by revenue, is of course peanuts and estimated range from half a percent to something slightly more. Peanuts.

This is not surprising, considering an estimated 999 out of every 1000 MySQL users does not pay Sun/MySQL anything (although some might be Open Query clients 😉 and while MySQL has been targeting higher-end clients and corresponding higher revenue, its pricing is still far lower than the premium-cost of Oracle, DB2 and the like.

All this proves very clearly something which I’ve been saying for years (do scan back in my blog ;-), the definition of market share is borked when it comes to Open Source and low-end disruptors (MySQL has been both although it might no longer be a low-end disruptor, having overshot the needs of a significant chunk of its users). The market impact (usage and influence) of such products is much greater than their revenue. So we have to consider, what matters most? I think the usage and influence matters most, but usage is difficult to measure for OSS, and influence is a subjective issue. Analysts go for solid numbers, and therefore revenue is a sensible -and traditionally reasonably accurate- way to see how things are, including in terms of influence and usage.

So, what is interesting about the EU probe is that it appears to acknowledge that little MySQL actually is a big force in the database market, and that is spot on. As to whether it makes sense to stall the takeover while meanwhile Sun is continuing its freefall and vultures IBM, HP and MS are circling around…. that’s a different matter. Having a philosophical debate while the patient is bleeding to death and getting pecked by scavengers… you get the idea. And I believe that Oracle has, all things considered, done a very decent job with InnoDB since its acquisition. With the takeover I’m not entirely convinced either way; it’s definitely interesting stuff playing out, but it shouldn’t be dragged on too much, that doesn’t help anybody.

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EU probes Oracle’s bid to buy Sun

It appears that little MySQL has just become a disproportionally big player in the Oracle-Sun takeover deal…. article by Associated Press: EU probes Oracle’s bid to buy Sun notes:

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said Thursday that regulators needed to examine the effect of a deal “when the world’s biggest proprietary database company proposes to take over the world’s leading open-source database company.”

Ah, Neelie Kroes. Dutch lady from the liberal (that’s seriously right-wing in NL, my American friends 😉 party, formerly minister for infrastructure in NL, long time ago.

So what can happen now? The EU can (and I’m skipping a few steps for brevity here) force the MySQL part of Sun to be auctioned separately, to allow the remainder of the detail to go through. One thing is fairly predictable, the price is probably not going to be $1 bln. As far as it wasn’t overpriced back then, a fair amount of talent and activity is not actually inside Sun any more. Less predictable, who might buy what is now there?

And on a side note, where will Drizzle fit… would be regarded as part of the MySQL bundle as it uses its IP for its foundation? If MySQL goes, and Drizzle stays, then Sun(/Oracle) will have a project for which it does not own the core IP. That can be perfectly fine, but that’s not what it’s been aiming for: Drizzle accepts contributions under BSD license, which means that the core IP owner (currently Sun) is actually able to dual-license it just like MySQL. Not saying that’s what it intends with Drizzle, but the arrangement currently makes Drizzle a potential net asset rather than merely a cool/useful project.

There’s plenty of independent interest (not just intellectual but business/money) in MySQL and Drizzle. I for one prefer that angle in the ecosystem now, it might be better off without core IP ownership. Dual licensing was ok for a time in MySQL’s history, but it’s fairly irrelevant and mainly a nuisance.

In any case… who would have thought, that little database originally written by Monty in Helsinki, causing so much trouble 😉