Oracle Idol: Screven Delivers on MySQL Promises, But Judges’ Votes Uncertain

Larry Ellison did not speak at the O’Reilly MySQL event.  While the Register was correct to say “Oracle executives are fanning out to woo open sourcers,” in its sharp-tongued review, Larry was not among them.  Perhaps he saw what was coming. Neither the audience nor the event tweetstream was friendly. Twitter descriptions suggested that the MySQL crowd was sitting on its hands as Edward Screven, Oracle Chief Architect, took the stage (click to see the speech)  to address the future of MySQL under Oracle.

Screven was unequivocal about one thing: we’re Oracle. We’re open, We’re Unbreakable. We Cluster. And on and on. For several slides, it seemed to me, watching a live stream of the event via Gogo Inflight internet at 40,000 feet, that I was at Oracle Open World, not a MySQL conference. The wi-fi was choppy – perhaps the techie equivalent to America Idol’s “pitchy.” I had to abandon the live feed and rely on the tweetstream, and its message remained clear – attendees continued to be skeptical. Several wags noted the minimal response – at one point a single enthusiast was apparently stared down for applauding. Edward, brave soul, seemed to be in danger of being voted off. It was seven and a half minutes – about a quarter of his speech – before he started to talk abut MySQL in earnest.

A day later, Monty Widenius and Brian Aker got their opportunity to refute the single-sourced model of MySQL as they pitched a large fork (MariaDB)  and a smaller one (Drizzle.) Their audience was somewhat more enthusiastic – like one of those Idol performers the crowd loves. But what about the judges?

If Randy Jackson had been there, applause or no applause, he might have wrapped up Screven’s efforts with “Check it out, Check it out. Dog, you ROCKED! I was feeling it!” Why? Because once Screven’s story actually turned to MySQL, there was plenty to say and demo.

At 11:30, he began to talk about the product. And it was good: support from industrial-strength Oracle offerings like Enterprise Manager, Secure Backup, and Oracle Audit Vault. A new beta 5.5 release adding many things from the developers’ wish lists. (Much of this was talked about in places like the Aquarium blog months ago – you can read about it here.) Semi-synchronous replication, better range partitioning, and tweaky things like variables in the LIMIT clause and indexes on key caches for MyISAM.

Screven may have hit a false note explaining the pluggable storage engine idea to the MySQL developers in the crowd, but he reaffirmed it and announced an advisory board and the confirmation of InnoDB as the blessed storage engine. This got the second outburst of applause, from a handful of people, quickly followed by another silence. No, it’s not new, either, but it’s hardly trivial, because foreign key support and ACID properties come with it. It populates the new performance schema automatically. And in the enterprise version, online backup is now included  with InnoDB.

Everything described so far (except the online backup) is available in the community edition; Screven reaffirmed that Oracle intends to keep advancing it. And he was also clear about another thing:

We’re going to invest to make sure that MySQL is a great database on Windows.”

This, of course, reflects one of the main reasons for Oracle’s adamant insistence on keeping MySQL after the Sun acquisition – it’s a great play at the low end, where Microsoft has remained virtually unchallenged. And there is ammunition: speed improvements come from both InnoDB and MySQL itself. Charts asserted 200% faster read – and 364% faster write. New data modeling capability highlighted the enhanced SQL Workbench tool improvements. Native JPA access for clusters. Five 9s, “carrier grade” availability. This all came in rapid sequence, and then we turned to a demo of monitoring. Edward cut it off because time was short. The whole pitch was done in a half hour.

But this was an O’Reilly show; no doubt a higher-volume, more polished thrust will be in evidence at the next, Oracle-owned event, which will be Open World. Screven’s nearly-final words were a pitch for this event’s attendees to go there instead – San Francisco is beautiful in September, he pointed out. Perhaps Larry will even be there. In the meantime, it’s worth pointing out that Screven reports directly to Ellison. That’s worth a lot of votes.

Disclosures: Oracle is a client of IT Market Strategy.

Published by Merv Adrian

Independent information technology market analyst and consultant, 40 years of industry experience, covering software in and around the data management space.

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