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MySQL users urge Oracle to improve commitment to open source

Oracle to update MySQL plans on Tuesday
By Jon Brodkin, Network World
April 09, 2010 03:48 PM ET
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MySQL users are cautiously optimistic about life under Oracle, but say Larry Ellison's team needs to offer a more detailed road map for development of the open source database.

Under Sun Microsystems, MySQL development "was a little stagnant," says Rocky Appiah, vice president of technology at Epic Advertising in New York City, a heavy user of MySQL. But when asked if MySQL will improve under Oracle, Epic Advertising CIO Rick Okin says, "Ask us that after they've actually owned it for a while."

Oracle's pledges on MySQL are 'purely cosmetic', say critics

Oracle's ownership of MySQL has raised concerns because the company's primary business model hinges on a database that is not open source and competes against MySQL. MySQL creator Michael "Monty" Widenius even launched a Web-based campaign to "save" the open source database from Oracle.  

Oracle's acquisition of Sun was ultimately approved by regulatory officials after the company made 10 commitments intended to assure MySQL users that Oracle will improve the database and encourage open source community involvement, without implementing restrictive licenses.

Oracle's chief MySQL official, Edward Screven, is expected to provide more detailed insight regarding Oracle's plans to enhance the technology on Tuesday at the O'Reilly MySQL Conference & Expo in Santa Clara, Calif.

Although Oracle's ownership of Sun and MySQL is a controversial topic in the open source world, there is reason for hope. Oracle's ownership, at least at first glance, is less worrisome than Sun's, says MySQL user Matthew Abarbanel, director of technical operations at IODA in San Francisco, a digital music distributor for independent music labels.

"At least Oracle's core competency as a company is databases," he says.

Sun, long a financially unstable company, seemed to encourage MySQL users to run the database on Sun's proprietary hardware, file system, and operating system, rather than taking a technology-agnostic approach, Abarbanel says.

"There's a bit of concern because it's unclear how MySQL fits into the larger Oracle landscape," Abarbanel acknowledges. But he adds that Oracle's ownership of MySQL "makes a lot more sense than Sun. At this point, it's probably the best chance of survival for MySQL as a platform."

Still, some raise questions about putting an open source database under the control of a proprietary software vendor . Karen Tegan Padir, who was vice president of MySQL and software infrastructure at Sun, left the company after the Oracle acquisition in part because of concerns about Oracle's commitment to open source. She is now vice president of products and marketing at EnterpriseDB, where she will be working on an open source PostgreSQL databse.

"I'm an open source person. I believe in its development model," she says. "I believe products are better when they're built in open source. That's not Oracle's core business model."

Padir says she thinks customers prefer a heterogeneous data center, rather than one in which a single vendor controls multiple products. But she was reluctant to directly criticize Oracle, and syas, "I'm sure they will be a fine steward of MySQL."

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