Analysts: MySQLs Cluster Version Puts Pressure on Big Database Vendors

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-04-14

Analysts: MySQLs Cluster Version Puts Pressure on Big Database Vendors

With Wednesdays release of MySQL ABs MySQL Cluster version of its open-source database, the little Swedish company is beginning to swim in the same pool as the big, enterprise-class database vendors, analysts say.

"MySQLs announcement on this clustering [technology] definitely reaffirms their commitment to rolling into the enterprise environment," said Noel Yuhanna, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif.

MySQLs database clustering architecture couples multiple MySQL database instances residing on different servers—or nodes—with a distributed, in-memory clustering architecture. Data is distributed over this cluster of databases in such a way that if one of the databases fails, its workload is picked up and redistributed over the remaining nodes.

MySQL Cluster has delivered five 9s—in other words, 99.999 percent—availability in testing, according to company officials. That works out to five minutes of downtime per year. The technology has been tested on as many as 48 nodes, with failover response times running between five and 10 milliseconds, according to MySQL Vice President of Marketing Zack Urlocker.

MySQL Cluster relies on a shared-nothing architecture, meaning that it doesnt require an expensive shared disk to achieve high availability, as do some clustering solutions. It also runs on commodity hardware such as that from Intel and AMD, as opposed to expensive shared-disk storage area networks.

Next page: MySQL busts out of the habit of soaking up tried-and-true technology.

MySQL takes on leading

-edge technology"> Whats particularly notable about the technology rollout is the fact that clustering isnt the sort of commodity technology open-source development usually spins out, analysts pointed out. "Open source isnt about innovation so much as perfection of known technology," said Carl Olofson, an analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Mass. "Its not that shared-nothing clustering is brand-new and nobody knows how to do it, but its more leading-edge than your basic, garden-variety database [technology]. MySQL is essentially an incorporation of understood, well-known database technology thats been honed and perfected by their engineers. This gives them a jump forward they otherwise might not have had."

MySQL is managing to leapfrog over its own development strategy of incorporating well-known database technology by acquiring leading-edge technology. In this case, the Uppsala, Sweden, company acquired the clustering technology—last year when it bought telecommunications equipment maker Ericssons NDB Cluster software.

In addition, MySQL last summer teamed up with Veritas Software Corp. and SGI, two other players in the clustering space, to integrate, market and support the MySQL database and Veritas Cluster Server, and to optimize, market and sell MySQL on the SGI Altix 3000 family of servers and superclusters.

MySQL leapt onto the clustering bandwagon because customers are clamoring for high availability, according to MySQLs Urlocker. "As MySQL has grown and been used in more business-critical applications and e-commerce situations and customer self-service applications, people are looking for high availability," he said. "Theres a lot of different ways to achieve that, but it typically requires high-end programming and expensive hardware. We wanted to bring high availability into the mainframe, so you can get the benefit of clustering and high availability without having to spend a fortune."

Next page: MySQL frees clustering from closed, proprietary development.


-sourcing clustering"> In essence, MySQL is taking technology that was developed in a closed, proprietary fashion at Ericsson and donating it into the open-source community under the companys dual license. That license stipulates that the softwares production version will be available in the third quarter at no cost under the free software/open source GNU GPL (General Public License) for open-source projects and also under a commercial license for software vendors and other commercial MySQL customers. The preview version is now available and can be downloaded at MySQLs site.

Click here to read how MySQL has been tweaking its license to respond to complaints from independent software vendors.

"Larry [Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corp.] has said that hes happy if 10 percent of his customers use clustering," Urlocker said. "Our objective is to bring it to the other 90 percent of the world."

Next page: Putting pressure on the big boys.

Big database vendors feel

the heat"> That strategy is putting pressure on the likes of Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp.—vendors whose databases are far more pricey than MySQLs open-source alternative. "We saw Oracle reduce the price of its Standard Edition One," noted Forresters Yuhanna. "That shows the pressure theyre under. Theyre obviously trying to compete with open source. … I feel Microsoft and IBM will have to follow suit in terms of lowering prices to compete with these environments over the next few years. After all, if open-source databases offer the same set of features as DBMSs, what are you going to choose? MySQL has an edge. Its low-cost, and its easier to use than other databases."

IDCs Olofson voiced the same thought. "The buzz is that people are increasingly taking MySQL seriously for certain classes of applications," he said. Now [the clustering] is another thing they have that puts them in a position where they can be discussed at the same time other products are."

Click here for Oracles take on MySQLs clustering move in an interview with Ken Jacobs, vice president of product strategy.

Likewise, database vendors are beginning to pay attention, Olofson said. "The way Oracle looks at the future, theyd like to develop their businesses among smaller companies and grow their business, which is natural. … Companies like Oracle and IBM are concerned about the future. They see the [small and midsize business] space as an area that represents their opportunity to do business in the future. When MySQL comes into that area and starts disrupting things, they have to pay attention. Theyre asking questions. Both companies have been taking steps to make sure entry-level prices are more competitive with Microsoft. There are people in both companies and other database companies whose job it is to" keep an eye out on developing threats such as those that MySQL presents, Olofson said.

"Large software companies are like big aircraft carriers," he said. "You cant change on a dime. You have to start thinking about that now."

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