Imagine youre a little open-source database company from Sweden named MySQL. Things are going pretty good for you. Instead of competing directly with the RDBMS overlords, any of whom could squash you like a bug in terms of product features or market share, youre pushing the idea of lean, mean commodity databases that can do grunt database work without busting the bank.
Such a humble approach is indeed working for MySQL AB. Forrester recently surveyed 140 large North American companies on their open-source plans and found that MySQLs open-source database was high on respondents project lists, with 52 percent of respondents reporting that theyre using it or plan to use it.
So far, so good. But now, imagine youre MySQL last week. You wake up one morning as the open-source database darling of the corporate world, but by the end of the day, big-boy IT vendor Computer Associates has announced plans to unleash its Ingres database into the open-source database market.
Will CAs move threaten to push MySQL out of the picture? Its an interesting question, and opinions are mixed. As Forrester analyst Noel Yuhanna pointed out when he called from the things-are-jumping floor of CAWorld, Ingres is a very mature database management system. Compared with other open-source databases such as MySQL, its got a good feature/functionality makeup.
“I think MySQL is going to be in trouble,” Yuhanna said. “They still lack some of the business features and functionality.” Yuhanna was referring to stored procedures and triggers, which MySQL has been talking about but which havent reached the production version yet.
“I think this is the right step for CA to capitalize on Ingres, [which is] a product thats not getting traction with new users,” Yuhanna said.
-of-Life Strategy”> Indeed, open-sourcing is a good end-of-life strategy for databases that arent competing in the top tier of the RDBMS market.
It can revive interest in a stagnant database product, and as CAs Maurice Donegan noted, it can ensure that you get a whole lot more eyeballs looking at improving your code—certainly not a bad move for code thats extremely old and of what might be dubious provenance.
What was it that Larry Ellison called CA? The jackal of the IT world? I dont know if thats fair with regards to Ingres code quality—I guess well find out soon, wont we?—but CA certainly does have a reputation of acquiring technology and living off the maintenance revenues without much enhancement of the original products.
Which databases might be good candidates for open-sourcing? Think of IBMs Informix, which accounted for only 1.9 percent of the 2003 market for RDBMS software, according to Gartners recently released market numbers. Sybases ASE is another one—it didnt even show up on Gartners list of top databases.
Will either go the open-source route? According to an IBM spokeswoman, Informix has a very loyal customer base and a strong roadmap to boot, with more IBM people on development today than Informix ever had.
Ill be chatting with IBM and others about the future of Informix and hopefully with Sybase about ASE as well, so check back in on the Database Center in coming weeks to find out more.Getting back to MySQLs fate, it might not be all that dire. After all, Ingres has been out some 20 years, and that means it must have had some changes and enhancements.
In addition, as Yuhanna noted, somebody who wrote the code 20 years ago likely had different objectives as well as different, likely obsolete, styles of programming. As time progresses, and as Ingres becomes available to the open-source community, the code quality will undoubtedly improve.
MySQL, meanwhile, may be worried, but its certainly putting the best face on the situation. Zack Urlocker, vice president of marketing at MySQL, was quick to point out to me the venerable nature of Ingres code. “Its a good database, but its not state of the art,” he said.
Ingres Advanced Age
Predictably, MySQL is taking CAs move as a vote of confidence in open source. “Its like open source is getting another vote of confidence from a major IT player,” Urlocker said.
“CAs a major firm. Theyre pretty conservative. I think its great. Within the past few weeks, BEA, Microsoft and CA all open-sourced products. Previously, youd say theyre either threatened or could be by open source. But now, were seeing more partnerships and cooperation emerge in these areas.”
But theres one thing CAs doing differently from MySQL that might help it win customers in the open-source database market: Its offering a more straightforward license.
CA chose a modified version of the common public license that is easier to decipher than MySQLs dual license, particularly for the ISVs who may choose to embed or build upon either Ingres or MySQL.
Meta Groups Charlie Garry says all of the open-source-database inquiries Meta is getting are about MySQL. CA doesnt have much credibility now in the open-source world, he said, so it will be interesting to see whether it can build up a following to rival MySQLs.
“Maybe its too late,” Garry suggested. Maybe, given CAs recent run-ins with the law, the company has so many things on its collective mind that posing a serious challenge to MySQL will be a challenge.
Time—and the unveiling of Ingres code that will happen within three months—will tell.
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eWEEK.com Database Center Editor Lisa Vaas has written about enterprise applications since 1997.