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September 16th, 2013

Oracle Losing Its MySQL Grip to MariaDB

When it comes to Oracle as caretaker of FOSS projects, users are voting with their feet.

The company that already very quickly lost control of OpenOffice when most of the project’s developers bolted, formed the Document Foundation and forked the code to create LibreOffice, is now in danger of losing another open source jewel it inherited when it took over Sun. LibreOffice, as you know, is now the defacto office suite of choice among Linux users and is rapidly gaining traction in the Windows world as well. OpenOffice is pretty much only a memory.

Of course, no one ever expected Oracle to be a good open source caretaker.

In 2010, when Oracle took control of Sun Microsystems, they became the minders of a host of open source projects that included OpenSolaris, Java, MySQL and OpenOffice. They’ve since quit developing OpenSolaris, although the project lives on as the forked OpenIndiana project; OpenOffice now belongs to Apache; Java, especially on the browser side, has been beset by a long list of security issues and MySQL has been forked by its creator into MariaDB.

Back when the Sun deal took place there was a lot of wringing of hands in my circles about MySQL, which (among other things) is the database behind nearly every site on the Internet. It was expected by many that it would eventually be made proprietary, which does seem to be Oracle’s eventual plan, or at least to make the free version inferior enough to their paid version to drive some sales their way. With six you get eggroll.

MariaDBUnfortunately for poor Oracle, it appears as if this plan isn’t going to work quite the way they want. Already many Linux distros, including Red Hat and SUSE, have made the switch to MariaDB, which so far remains a “drop-in” replacement for MySQL making switching easy. In addition, some big big websites, Wikipedia for instance, have made the jump to MariaDB.

Now we learn that Google, which is about as big as it gets, is making the move.

On Friday, ZDNet’s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols reported that a Google senior systems engineer, Jeremy Cole, announced at the Extremely Large Databases conference in Stanford, California that Google is migrating from MySQL 5.1 to MariaDB 10.0 with the help of SkySQL, which is part of the MariaDB project:

“Specifically, Google is moving to its own customized version of MariaDB 10.0. This version of MariaDB is equivalent to MySQL 5.6. Google’s version of MariaDB, according to Cole, is ‘Not really true “forks” [but are] branches for internal use.’ He added that Google had been making its own tweaks to the MySQL DBMS family for years.”

The reason given by Cole for Google’s move to MariaDB would seem to pretty much sum-up the feelings of most of us in the FOSS community:

First, while Cole, and Google, ‘value stability and performance over fancy new features. Oracle doesn’t always feel the same way.’ While Cole admits that Oracle does good development work, they don’t do it in an open-source friendly manner. He said, …[Oracle] is ‘continuing to do good development, but often without much public visibility until release,’ and worse still, Oracle, ‘ignores bugs, feedback, and communication from the community.'”

I figure it’s only a matter of time before the hosting companies jump aboard the bandwagon and start offering MariaDB by default. In a few years, MySQL, like OpenOffice, will only be a memory.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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