An Escape Plan

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2006-02-22 Print this article Print

Thats the public fear, but enterprises or public agencies reliant on the MySQL database either dont fear that Oracle is up to no good or theyve already figured out an escape plan. One example is Tom Crimmins, a programmer analyst/database administrator for Pottawatamie County, in Iowa. Pottawatamie County uses both MySQL and SQL Server.
Crimmins said that hes not worried about Oracles storage engine buys, in spite of the fact that the engines are "critical components right now."
"Theyre the only transactionalized storage engines MySQL has," he said. "I know the reason they havent made the MyISAM engine transactional so far is its so fast and they dont want to slow it down." The only way Oracles purchases would be a big deal if Oracle decided not to allow MySQL to use the InnoDB engine, Crimmins said, since its the only way the MySQL database is ACID-compliant. InnoDB, as an ACID-compliant transactional storage engine, is designed for very high performance and scalability when processing large data volumes and under high concurrency. Click here to read more about InnoDB. But if push came to shove and Oracle changed its licensing, Crimmins said, his agency would probably move to SQL Server, in lieu of a replacement engine from MySQL. That runs contrary to Oracles hopes that enterprises will use its newly acquired open-source databases and then upgrade to become paying customers. "If there was no other choice as far as transactionalized engines, if they were going to start charging for that component, it wouldnt make sense for us to pay when we already have SQL Server," Crimmins said. Another example of corporate comfort with Oracles purchases is Dariush Zommorrodi, vice president of corporate development and technology for Yellow Online, Canadas leading alternative online directory. Zommorrodi said hes sleeping well at night even though the company planned to migrate to the transactional version of MySQL, 5.0, "once it was debugged and ready." "I dont think even if Oracle does this acquisition it would block the growth and the product," he said. "In the open-source community, you cannot prevent the enhancements and advancements of MySQL. I dont see it as a big threat, a big worry. The community will work to enhance this and over time it will prove it will become a very successful RDBMS." As far as the planned migration goes, hes still considering migrating his Oracle 9i on Sun boxes setup to MySQL 5.0 running on cheaper Intel-based boxes with a Linux operating system, as soon as hes convinced the stability is there. "Were using MySQL for the front-end search engine," he said. "Thats where weve got the power of low cost, redundancy and scaling of MySQL servers. We cant afford multiple Oracle servers for the amount of traffic increasing on our site." Another business user, Mike Welles, said that he understands the general angst over Oracle, "given that Oracle has a track record of being the death of every promising piece of technology they purchase," he said. In the case of the InnoDB and Berkeley DB buys, he sees the "death" as being deliberate. "Even so, they cant cut water with a knife," he said, referring to the communitys likelihood of forking the code if Oracle does anything fishy. Hes still made sure to keep his business vendor dependence to a minimum, however, shielding his company from MySQLs reliance on a component now owned by Oracle—InnoDB—by reserving the use of InnoDB for only the most critical applications. "Id say the vast majority of the one-off applications that are scattered around are using MyISAM," he said. "Even our mission-critical applications that require these features have all been coded in a database-agnostic fashion as well—my group, at least, makes it a point to use technologies such as Hibernate that allow for seamless plugability between different RDBMS systems." At any rate, MySQLs April user conference is fast approaching—a time when the company has promised a full rollout of its product roadmap and storage engine architectures. Until then, as Mickos has reportedly said, MySQL is sticking by the premise that trying to kill open-source products by buying companies that make open-source products is like trying to kill a dolphin by drinking the ocean. "Should Oracle take their new toys and go home, we still can use what we have," said Welles. "We expect that even if [they do], the free forks of what we are using will thrive and supplant whatever Oracle does with their versions." And after all, Welles pointed out, theres always Firebird or PostgreSQL. "Should we be wrong … well probably just switch to using PostgreSQL or Firebird or some other system that meets our needs at the same price point, and continue to invest our meager department budgets on more important things than Oracle licenses." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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