MySQL Scores the Brains Behind Firebird

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2006-02-23 Print this article Print

In what many interpret as a way of getting out from under Oracle's thumb, MySQL has hired Jim Starkey, creator of the InterBase database—which later became the popular open-source Firebird database.

MySQL has hired Jim Starkey, creator of the InterBase database—which later became the popular open-source Firebird database—in addition to scooping up Starkeys one-man Firebird-based company, Netfrastructure. Starkey posted a letter to the Firebird community advising them of the news on Feb. 18. In the letter, Starkey said that he will be working full-time for MySQL, perhaps occasionally contributing input to Firebird development, but no longer taking an active role.
Starkeys wife, Ann Harrison, one of the primary Firebird developers, will work for MySQL part-time, but she will continue to be active in the Firebird project, Starkey wrote.
MySQL confirmed that Harrison will be joining MySQLs architecture group, while Starkey will take on the role of senior software architect. With the acquisition, MySQL not only scores Starkeys renowned database brainpower—it also acquires Netfrastructure. The companys product, which Starkey designed in the late 90s, reimplements the Firebird database architecture and combines it with a Web-based application server front end, a database, a Web server and a Java virtual machine. What MySQL does not acquire, contrary to news reports, is the Firebird code base, which is open-source. "MySQL and Firebird will continue as two distinct code bases," said Steve Curry, a spokesperson for MySQL, in an e-mail exchange. "Any MySQL projects that [Starkey] is involved in will be based on new work, not re-use of existing Firebird or InterBase code. Firebird is a fine product, one that we do not see as a competitor." Starkey echoed the theme of non-competition in his letter. "MySQL and Firebird have never seen each other as competitors, and I doubt this will change in the future," Starkey wrote. "The projects have different open-source philosophies, different technologies, different customer bases, and different sweet spots. The ideas behind the two projects are, happily, public and available to all. If MySQL and Firebird compete, it is only competition in offering the best possible support to their respective customers." The open-source community is in apparent agreement that the acquisition is MySQLs way of outwitting Oracle. "…This sure looks like MySQLs play to get out from under the shadow of the recent Oracle maneuvers," blogged Robert Treat, echoing what many are posting in the Firebird community forum and elsewhere. Next Page: The buying battle.

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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