How will MySQL fare under Oracle?

Oracle is buying Sun, who recently bought MySQL. What are the ramifications for one of the most powerful open source tools available? Will MySQL sink or swim in the Oracle ocean?

I've been doing a lot of work with databases lately - specifically MySQL. One tool I had to start working with is the MySQL Workbench. This tool replaces the MySQL Administrator and the MySQL Query Browser. All three tools are the results of the MySQL developers' hard work. But one of those tools has a very different feel to it. The MySQL Workbench is an outstanding tool, but it smacks of an enterprise-level tool. It's A DBA's dream tool (from my perspective). But it seems a bit out of line for MySQL to take away tools that made database work easier for non-enterprise users and replace it with a tool that is pretty obviously in line with large-scale usage.

Out of line unless you think this might be a preparatory step in anticipation of the Oracle takeover. It could be. And, if that's the case, is it a bad sign for everyone's favorite open source database? I'm not so convinced that non-enterprise end-users of MySQL (you know the ones - those that use MySQL for Drupal, Joomla, and other DB-dependent applications) will have any worries. Let's see if we can collectively draw that same conclusion.

But first let's address the fears of this merger.

The first (and biggest) fear of this merger is that Oracle will do what it has done to BDB (Berkley Database) and let development stagnate and charge far too much for support. I don't see this as being such an issue. Why? MySQL and BDB are two different beasts. Even at its height, BDB didn't enjoy nearly the popularity or install-base as does MySQL. Although there are a number of applications that depend upon BDB (RPM, Spamassassin, Postfix for example), BDB does not do network connections, and does not support SQL or any query language. MySQL enjoys a much larger install-base for two reasons: (1) It's more flexible and (2) It is required by numerous network-based tools that have become industry standards in their areas. To this end, Oracle would be foolish to do with MySQL what it has done with BDB.

Some also fear that Oracle is buying Sun just to bring in the MySQL developers closer to their own, so they can fold them into developing Oracle DB. Given the open source nature of MySQL, we all know that this isn't really a fear. If it really were a fear, a fork of MySQL would be appearing very soon.

The Sun purchase

I remember back when Sun took over MySQL the same fears boiled to the surface. No one was convinced that Sun had the best of intentions in mind for MySQL. Many thought Sun purchased MySQL in hopes of saving itself from collapse. Many also thought Sun would do such things as make MySQL proprietary or make it fail because of their track record in the recent past. Neither happened. MySQL continued to be open and it didn't fail.

But one thing did continue to happen with MySQL under the protection of Sun. Sun continued to falter. Had that happened, who knows what would have happened to MySQL. Yes, it would continue to live, but would it be able to compete with other, large players in the market? Probably not. Tools like the MySQL Workbench certainly wouldn't have been developed.

What happens now?

Now that the papers are all but signed, the open source community stands in wonder as to what is going to happen to MySQL under the wing of Oracle. I believe:

  • The end users will see little to no difference.
  • There might be a bit of a branding shift, but that might be it.
  • The enterprise-level tools will continue to be polished and developed.
  • Oracle most likely will develop data warehouse appliances based on MySQL.
  • There will be cross-integration between MySQL and Oracle.
  • Oracle will market MySQL to SMBs and drive Enterprises to it's Oracle 11g database.

One thing is for certain: Oracle does not make a habit of alienating customers of new purchases. I am sure that Oracle will do an outstanding job of making sure all current businesses using MySQL (through Sun) will continue without a hiccup. My only real concern is that the end users (single users installing MySQL through package managers for free) might not see the updates trickle down as quickly as they have before. But that is a small price to pay for seeing MySQL (hopefully) grow under the care of Oracle. And, one can't help but hope, this buyout is causing Microsoft to seriously sweat the competition.

I do hope that the individual user is not kicked to the curb. As I said, the MySQL Workbench tool is obviously geared toward the enterprise DBA. Will Oracle develop a tool for the smaller shops and the single user? Or will this tool have to come from the open source community? Let's just hope it comes.