Analysts say big database vendors must be feeling the heat from open-source database providers such as MySQL AB, which on Wednesday rolled out its version of database clustering.
That type of high-end database technology, offered at no cost under the free software/open-source GNU General Public License (GPL) for open-source projects and also under a commercial license for software vendors and other commercial MySQL customers, must be causing some consternation in the hallways of Oracle Corp., IBM and Microsoft Corp., the thinking goes.
To find out how disrupted by this tiny Swedish companys technology such behemoths as Oracle feel, eWEEK.com Database Center Editor Lisa Vaas got Ken Jacobs, Oracles vice president of product strategy, to answer the question himself.
Are big database vendors pricking up their ears when MySQL offers a high-end feature such as MySQL Cluster?
Were watching with interest but have not seen MySQL as a significant factor in our marketplace. This announcement of MySQL Cluster may confuse some people, but it will not change the competitive landscape.
MySQL is trying to address certain product shortcomings by acquiring a third-party technology. This does not mean they now have a product that is competitive with Oracle—or even other—database products, whether clustered or not.
No one has anything at all like Oracles Real Application Clusters, which is the only product that can truly support enterprise-class transaction processing and data-warehouse applications, including packaged applications, in a scalable, high-performance, manageable way.
Granted, MySQL is a small company. It isnt a big threat now. Or is it?
Technically, MySQL is absolutely not a threat, not even close. When compared with Oracle, the MySQL feature set has obvious shortcomings, including reliability, etc.
From a customer viewpoint, lack of widely available ISV applications, hidden costs—management, application development, etc.—and risks of open-source software, eventual migration costs and limited confidence in support limit deployments to marginal applications. MySQLs product is not capable of supporting enterprise-class [online transaction processing] or data-warehousing applications.
When you factor in costs of support, Oracle has a very price-competitive product in Standard Edition One. And it requires no application rewrite as you scale up or outgrow the functionality [and require] a move to enterprise-level deployments.
The press talks about MySQL, but we dont see it much in competitive situations. MySQL has not been a threat to our business, and I dont believe MySQL Cluster changes things.
Next page: Oracle says its ready to pick up customers who run out of steam on MySQL.
Oracle Ready to Gain
What kind of a threat does Oracle see open-source databases being, say, five years down the road?
Anything that expands the size of the market for databases and introduces new developers to database technology is a good thing. As customers run out of steam with MySQL, they will upgrade to enterprise-class products like Oracle.
Looking at the track record of MySQLs release history and the large set of deficiencies in functionality and reliability, it will take many years before it begins to reach technical parity with mainstream database products. By then, of course, the entire database market will have moved on, with customers raising new requirements and new technologies being brought to market.
MySQL production releases have typically been two years apart, and the time from alpha [first release] to production is about 1.5 years. They released Version 5.0 in alpha status in December 2003, so a reasonable expectation for production release of Version 5.0 is mid-2005.
It should be noted that MySQL Version 5.0 introduced stored procedures but not triggers or views, both of which are essential for significant enterprise applications. It appears unlikely that MySQL could introduce these critical features much before mid-2007. A whole wide range of additional capabilities including but not limited to XML and analytic—i.e. business-intelligence—features do not appear to be on the MySQL radar.
Furthermore, the low level of resources available to MySQL to fund development and the very small size of their development team raise questions about the viability of the MySQL business model and technology development path going forward.
It is unlikely that MySQL can rapidly accelerate development of their core product while acquiring and integrating disparate database technologies like the SAP DB (now called MaxDB) or MySQL Cluster. Indeed, this sort of engineering by acquisition is a distraction and fragments their development efforts.
Oracles track record of leading innovation—and significant production releases every 18 months or so—will keep it at the head of the pack for years, decades, to come.
Next page: Open-source databases have nothing in common with Linuxs success, Jacobs says.
MySQL Is No Linux
Those who liken the database market to the operating-system market, where Linux has been successful, and expect similar advances by the open-source database products are mistaken. In the operating-system market, unprofitable fragmentation and needless differentiation existed among hardware vendors proprietary Unix implementations. There were many incentives for the industry to consolidate on a Unixlike product to which they could contribute and which they could control.
No such incentive exists in the database industry. Despite the arrangement between SAP and MySQL, which appears quite limited in its actual impact, it appears unlikely that major industry players will align around MySQL.
Beyond Linux at the operating-system level, there really are relatively few other successful open-source products, and these include Web listeners [Apache], scripting languages like Perl or PHP and Java virtual machines [JBoss AS].
In these cases, the technology required to compete successfully is quite limited, especially compared with databases. Even in these areas, as with Linux, there are relatively large numbers of developers in the open-source community contributing to the development of their respective technologies.
This situation does not exist in the MySQL case, where there are few actual contributors to the code base and where the company strategy includes acquisition of core technologies.
The bottom line here is that in five years, while MySQL may be more capable than it is today, database products and related technology will have moved forward, as will customer requirements. It is not obvious that MySQL will be able to meet these requirements even then.
Next page: You can lust after Oracle customers, but youre not getting them, Jacobs says.
Wishing Wont Carry MySQL
Some look at MySQLs shared-nothing clustering as a viable enterprise-class feature. [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison has said hed be happy if 10 percent of customers adopted clustering. MySQLs [vice president of marketing] Zak Urlocker has said hes happy to pick up the other 90 percent. Whats your response to that offer?
There are many kinds of clustering, and clustering alone does not make a database successful. There are many limitations to the MySQL Cluster product. It is simply not a viable platform for most enterprise-class applications, as described above.
Customers dont actually require features, but solutions to various requirements like high availability, performance, ease of use, low cost of management, application development capabilities, etc. The MySQL product, with or without clustering, falls far short of meeting these needs for mainstream applications.
Oracle customers have spoken, with many purchasing our Real Application Clusters technology, resulting in an 86 percent growth rate in revenues for this product in the past year. This indicates that customers see real value in this product, and we can anticipate a much greater adoption over time than 10 percent.
Unlike MySQL Cluster, which has no installed base and which does not run any packaged or commercial business processing applications, Oracle Real Application Clusters has been adopted by thousands of customers and leading independent software vendors.
While Urlockers comment is cute, wishing wont make it so. MySQL, with or without clusters, is simply not a competitive product with Oracle or even with other mainstream database products.
Next page: MySQL will play in the SMB market, Jacobs predicts.
MySQL to Play in
SMB Space?”> Oracles been making a lot of moves to crack the SMB [small to midsize business] market: cutting prices on Oracle 10g Standard Edition 1, packaging with Dell servers, etc. Everybody, myself included, has interpreted this as both a defensive and offensive move against Microsofts lock on the SMB market. What part do open-source databases such as MySQL play in these moves, though?
As you surmise, it is likely that MySQL will have a greater impact on the SMB market than on the enterprise arena. The requirements in this market are less demanding. SMB customers are more sensitive to costs, and this is a perceived, but not completely accurate, advantage for MySQL.
Since Microsoft has historically been a lower-cost product and since its functionality is more limited, users are more likely to migrate from SQL Server to MySQL than they are to do so from Oracle. Thus, SQL Server is under more pressure from MySQL than Oracle is.
This survey conducted by MySQL shows that more users have converted to MySQL from SQL Server than from Oracle, but that most users have not been using a database at all.
Customers remain concerned about the availability of support and are becoming aware of hidden costs in using open-source database products. Further, SMB customers most often seek solutions in the form of packaged applications and dont seek to purchase raw technology and build their own applications. There is a very limited range of packaged applications available for MySQL.
Oracle is increasingly successful competing with Microsoft, and the new initiatives youve cited are being well-received. Attractive pricing and packaging makes the enterprise-class features of Oracle available to a broader range of customers and ensures their ability to scale and grow their applications environment as their business grows.
The new manageability focus in Oracle 10g makes our product more appealing to customers of all sizes. A recent study shows that Oracle 10g is significantly easier and less costly to manage than a Microsoft SQL Server environment. Oracles availability on Linux and other operating systems is also attractive to more customers who want to avoid lock-in to the Windows environment.
Oracle SE One pricing means that customers can obtain world-class database technology and professional support for less than they can with MySQL, depending on the number of users and servers they need. Why would a customer spend more to get less?
Oracles new initiatives and the strength of our product line not only help us compete better with Microsoft, but further raise the bar for MySQL.