Open-source database pioneers expand their target beyond Oracle • The Register

MySQL pioneer Peter Zaitsev, an early employee of MySQL AB under original open source database author Michael “Monty” Widenius, has already found it easy to identify the enemy.

“When MySQL AB started, we were there to get Oracle’s ass. Our CEO, Mårten Mickos, was always telling us how we were going to get out and replace all those Oracle database installations,” Zaitsev said. The register.

Speaking at Percona Live, the open source database event hosted by the services company Zaitsev founded in 2006 and led as chief executive, he said the situation had changed since Oracle ended up owning MySQL in 2010. This was as a result of its acquisition that year. from Sun Microsystems, which had acquired MySQL AB two years earlier.

As a relational database alternative to Oracle, MySQL has won early fans among second-generation online businesses, including Facebook, Google, and Uber. While supporters had been horrified that the world’s largest proprietary database vendor would get their hands on their open source baby, Big Red’s handling of the system didn’t turn out exactly as feared. .

“They thought, ‘Oh no, Oracle is going to kill MySQL, make it completely proprietary’ and so on. You can argue their motives, but Oracle has done pretty good engineering in MySQL,” Zaitsev said.

But it’s nuanced praise, marking the nuances that are growing in the open source database market.

The co-author of High performance MySQL: optimization, backups and replication pointed out that “if you’re an end user, MySQL 8 is a great database” with lots of great features and performance.

And the developers?

However, if you’re a developer or packager of other systems that require access to MySQL’s source code, “things aren’t so rosy,” he said. The reason is that Oracle offers a “drop-ship” approach to open source development. Although Oracle releases the source code, it does not offer an open discussion with its developers so that they can get feedback before features are released.

“They don’t do development in public,” Zaitsev said.

The intention may be to make life harder for other companies trying to make money from MySQL, such as AWS with its Aurora MySQL compatible system, or MariaDB, with its MySQL fork, but it also creates obstacles. for engineers who want to look at development code to see if there might be easier alternatives to a monolithic Oracle download.

To be open or not to be open

Another trend muddying the open source waters alongside Oracle’s “drop-ship” development is so-called single-vendor open source systems, whose companies support a separate foundation running the open source project.

While companies MariaDB and MongoDB maintain that their databases are open source, there are significant differences from “true” open source software for users who become wedded to the cloud services they offer, according to Zaitsev.

“First of all, the [MariaDB] The foundation gets a lot of funding from MariaDB, and a lot of the development happens within the company, so it’s not that easy,” he said.

Meanwhile, the complete solution can rely on proprietary software such as MaxScale, which extends high availability. At the same time, only customers have direct access to MariaDB code. Even if they can republish the code, that decision still puts non-customers at a disadvantage, Zaitsev claims.

Similar arguments apply to MongoDB’s DBaaS Atlas.

“If you don’t have a business relationship, you essentially lose the threat of access to that source code,” he said.

Since founding Percona, Zaitsev has helped grow the service business to approximately 350 employees, in more than 50 countries funded solely by his own revenue. In addition to providing services and advice supporting open source database systems, it also offers open source software tools, with approximately 75 million downloads per year.

The software it offers now includes a SaaS database management platform originally intended for PostgreSQL, MySQL and MongoDB.

But the software itself remains open source, even if customers end the business relationship with Percona, Zaitsev said. “If you choose not to be our customer, you have access to all of our software. You can hire someone else to maintain it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the launch of open source against Oracle’s own proprietary database has changed as the market has evolved and developers are pursuing a database strategy creating a wide range of applications in the cloud, rather than a smaller set of commercial applications.

Zaitsev pointed out that if you look at the rankings on DB-Engines, which combine mentions, job postings and social media data, Oracle is still the best RDBMS.

But a Stack Overflow survey wouldn’t even place Oracle in the top five. So, as far as developers are concerned, the debate over whether Oracle is the enemy is over. “The reality is that the majority of developers – especially good developers – prefer open source,” he said.

It’s not just Percona making these arguments about the purity (or lack thereof) of open source database software.

EDB’s point of view

EDB, which supports and contributes to PostgreSQL, makes similar points. It also started out as an Oracle killer, but it also evolves.

Bruce Momjian, vice president of EDB and senior member of the PostgreSQL development group since 1996, said The register“When I started with EDB in 2006, we really pitched ourselves as the Oracle alternative. And, you know, it was a good run for maybe 10 or 12 years.”

But what has changed in the past five years is that the market for customers who want to either stay with Oracle or have an Oracle-compatible RDBMS built on PostgreSQL is shrinking.

“There are now a lot of companies basically saying, ‘Forget the Oracle API, I want to standardize on the PostgreSQL API.’ They don’t even want a non-PostgreSQL API because they see it’s a growing market and an opportunity with additional cost savings, flexibility, and continuous innovation,” he said. he said, also speaking to Percona Live.

“Years ago if you had to rewrite your application from Oracle to PostgreSQL it was a negative, it was a cost to you. Now if you’re writing to work on a PostgreSQL they think it’s a value added to that leaving the Oracle API is no longer seen by everyone as a disadvantage, it’s actually a benefit for some people, and it helps justify the cost,” Momjian said.

PostgreSQL is available under the OSI-approved PostgreSQL License and has so much developer support that it’s hard for single-vendor open-source databases to keep up, Momjian said.

He cited Greenplum, which used PostgreSQL as the basis for its data warehousing system, which he said had limited success. “They were going to be so good, they said, ‘We don’t need to stay with what the community is doing’.”

“But time has proven them wrong. It’s very hard for a company to innovate at the speed of PostgreSQL. Oracle can’t do it. If Oracle can’t innovate at the speed of Postgres…How would these other people do they think they can do it?”

Developers want more than open source

Oracle would of course be asked to defer. Last year, it boosted Exadata X9M and claimed to have achieved online transaction processing (OLTP) with more than 70% more input/output operations per second (IOPS) than its previous version, the X8M. Building on the hardware integration it inherited through the purchase of Sun Microsystem – and which is only available in Oracle cloud or on-premises systems – Big Red also said the system performed with a latency of 19 µs I/O from database to storage, 10 times faster than flash memory.

For retention, not acquisition?

Despite the performance, its main target is existing customers, said Carl Olofson, IDC’s research vice president at the time. Even though Oracle is no longer the main opponent, the story is not quite over yet. Speaking to us again, Olofson argued that it’s too simple to say that developers are only looking for open source databases on which to build their new projects.

“Until recently, the selling proposition for open source was that even with an enterprise feature set built around it, it was still cheaper than a fully proprietary set from Oracle or Microsoft. But now that we’re going to the cloud, everything is getting darker,” he says.

Since customers pay a service fee to support enterprise-grade open-source RDBMSs in any case, when companies offer a database-as-a-service in the cloud, the billing model is the database-as-a-service model. ‘subscription, which customers are comfortable with and don’t necessarily care about what’s behind it is technically open source or not,’ he said.

“At the end of the day, most customers just want value for money. They want to know if they’re paying a fair price and getting a level of service and performance that’s right for what they’re trying to do. Many surveys show a preference for open source, but we found that when you peel it, it’s really a preference for open source because they consider the interface to be a standard, which means that “They can hire people with MySQL or PostgreSQL experience quite easily,” Olofson added.

Whether they prefer open source over proprietary so they can eventually port the code if they choose is a moot point, he said. Meanwhile, Olofson isn’t convinced that open source can always outperform proprietary systems, especially when a new generation of innovators hits the market.

“There’s some great technology coming to market – the CockroachDB geo-distributed system with transaction support, for example. When asked about going open source, they say, ‘Why would we do that? It was difficult to develop and our investors are expecting a return on investment’.”

This makes sense when the technology is best known, which is the case with PostgreSQL and MySQL. They have these huge QA teams, they’re certainly battle-tested, and for the most common use cases, they’re perfectly fine. But when you get into some of these more extreme use cases, the question would be, where are open source databases?

“What we call extreme today is becoming more and more common due to the increase in data volume and the increase in the use of streaming data, and other technologies that really stress the systems of data and require new and different kinds of technologies to manage,” Olofson said.

For those who believe in open source ethics, Oracle may no longer be their main enemy. But the battle may have only just begun. ®

Maria H. Underwood