14 November 2009

MySql is a Threat to Oracle

This past week, the Times, in one day, provided two really stupid stories. I wrote a screed, which they've not published (no surprise there), so here's the one for DrCodd. The background: they ran a story about why Oracle and Sun should or should not merge, and the reasons why the EU objections are wrong. Not directly about SSD, except that Oracle really needs Sun's hardware if it has a chance of stealing IBM's mainframe customer base; I suspect that SSD, either in real drive form or the faux form now on display, is integral to accomplishing that.

The objection by the EU rests on facts which neither today's, nor any other I've read in The Times, deign to tell the reader. First and foremost: MySql is *not*, repeat *not*, Open Source as that term is understood. From the beginning, MySql has held a dual license, one of which is Open Source. As MySql stands today, this minimalist version is used by lots of web site and amateur developers. This version is and can be used without being beholden to MySql/Sun/Oracle.

There is, however, the commercial license version. This version, as explicitly stated countless times by the original developers, was the source of funding the Open Source version. Oracle, as I understand it now, is not compelled to continue this largesse by the DoJ. Oracle could simply abandon the Open Source version of MySql.

It gets better. The heart of database software is known as the engine. MySql's original (and still the Open Source version) engine is primitive in the extreme. No serious database developer would use it for anything serious. It is not a threat to Oracle, or any industrial strength database.

But, then Oracle bought, and maintains, an engine which is syntactically equivalent to Oracle itself. It is called InnoDB. While InnoDB is Open Source in origin, it is maintained by a separate company (owned by Oracle), Innobase OY in Finland.

Here's where the potential conflict arises: before now, Oracle, through Innobase OY, had an arm's length contractual relationship with MySql in providing InnoDB for MySql. With the merger, Oracle *could* abandon InnoDB in MySql, and thus force users to take up Oracle database, since the SQL access to a MySql/InnoDB database matches Oracle, and not the SQL that would be used with Open Source MySql. That's why, in my estimation, the EU is concerned.

Oracle has reason to do so: MySql/InnoDB *is* a low cost threat to Oracle.


Anonymous said...

Robert, a good analysis. I think a lot of people are underestimating EU. They've been thoroughly educated by their 10-year long antitrust fight against Microsoft. Anyway, what would be your response to those who say Oracle could have killed MySQL a couple of years ago by shutting down InnoDB but it didn't?

Robert Young said...

My understanding of the history is that InnoBase and MySql have a contractual relationship that would make that impossible. Sun inherited that. With a merger, such contracts no longer matter. I will spend some time to confirm.

I should add, PostgreSQL is another work alike, and better known as such within the database community.