Eye on Oracle

Jun 11 2009   3:48PM GMT

Oracle should support the Open Database Alliance now

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

Ed Scannell

Oracle’s continued lack of public enthusiasm, let’s call it, about gaining possession over MySQL Server continues to puzzle me.

The folks at Redwood Shores certainly haven’t indicated they will abandon the popular open-source data base, but neither have they acknowledged what the strategic importance to its overall data base fortunes might be.

I know Oracle can’t offer up too many specifics about its plans for MySQL until its acquisition of Sun is complete (the latest speculation is that approval may not come now until at least September over some concerns expressed by the European Union). But it could do a better job of making a general statement or two about its potential value, which might go a long way towards making its customers using Oracle and MySQL databases side by side feel more assured.

The company shouldn’t wait too much longer to do that.

A couple of weeks ago, Monty Widenius, MySQL’s founder who left Sun before the Oracle deal, has formed an independent vendor-neutral consortium that will serve as a hub to create and maintain code and binaries, as well as offer training and technical support for MySQL.

The fledgling organization, called the Open Database Alliance, will supply a range of software and services for Widenius’ fork of the MySQL MariaDB version of the product. The group will not wait for Oracle’s endorsement or formal participation.

At the announcement of the Alliance Widenius expressed more than a little concern that MySQL’s development efforts could be set back years if Oracle either lets the product languish without regular updates, or lays off many of the product’s programmers at Sun once the deal is completed.

Widenius pledged to work closely with those MySQL developers at Sun, to prevent a significant forking of the code which would fracture an otherwise united development community. This, of course, could result in diluting the product’s competitive powers against Microsoft, or make it less attractive to Oracle shops as a departmental-level compliment to its higher-end databases.

Not just that. Some of Oracle’s database competitors could join the new consortium and make technical contributions to MySQL. It is hard to imagine that Oracle would be comfortable with that scenario having just paid over $7 billion for Sun.

Widenius also made it clear his new organization is quite open to any company or individuals joining in the group. Given there are only the two founding members who have joined – namely Monty Program Ab and Percona – new members are likely to have more than a little influence in the product’s direction.

I have already written about MySQL’s more obvious advantages to Oracle’s data base business: a strong lower-end compliment to Oracle’s proprietary line of data bases that could effectively compete against Microsoft; another source of maintenance revenues; and a way for Oracle to take a leadership position in the open source world and improve its credibility there.

No matter what Oracle’s longer range plans are for MySQL, the company would be wise to throw The Open Database Alliance a bone soon, letting it know it intends to work cooperatively. It would be good for not only MySQL users and developers, but for its own strategic good.

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