Ingres forecasts MySQL

The CEO of an open source database company thinks the future of MySQL is doomed due to the meagre investment that Oracle Corp. will likely afford it once it acquires Sun Microsystems Inc.

“I think MySQL just came with the package,” said Roger Burkhardt, CEO of Redwood City, Calif.-based Ingres Corp. With Java and Solaris being the obvious jewels for Oracle, Burkhardt sees no economic incentive for Oracle to turn MySQL into an enterprise-class database from the “fairly simple, lightweight” product that it is now.

Making MySQL into a more substantial database might have happened under Sun’s reign, Burkhardt said, but as it stands, the open source product hasn’t exactly grown much since Sun acquired it in 2008. Oracle announced last April that it would purchase Sun in a US$7.4 billion deal.

It’s disappointing for the MySQL community, he continued, who “didn’t intend this thing to go so far and stop.” Even though the purchase is not yet a done deal, the community has already begun reacting with fragmentation and departures of key open source leaders like MySQL founder Monty Widenius.

Burkhardt is not optimistic that Sun’s strong open source advocacy will rub off on Oracle. “It’s totally at odds with their philosophy,” he said. “They will put a gloss on it.” Oracle’s annual conference, he pointed out, is called Oracle OpenWorld but “it’s a wonderful example of if you keep saying it often enough you hope someone will believe you.”

In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada the day of Oracle’s announcement that it would buy Sun Microsystems, Nigel Wallis, research manager for the application services sector with Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., noted that it would be interesting to see how Sun Microsystems’ CEO Jonathan Schwartz’s strong advocacy of open source continues post-acquisition.

But Wallis didn’t think that MySQL and Oracle’s database necessarily posed a conflict given the different markets in which they played. The former is designed for small-to-medium sized businesses, and the latter designed for mission-critical applications like ERP and data warehousing, said Wallis.

Oracle might not continue to invest in MySQL as heavily as Sun would have, but “I’m not saying they’re going to turn it off tomorrow,” said Burkhardt. “They hope it will be a minor league … in their minds, the major league is the Oracle database.”

Open source growth today is observed across the entire category of infrastructure software that’s proven and supported by various commercial companies, said Burkhardt, unlike some years ago when it was mainly situated at the bottom of the stack. Just this week, Ingres released its Ingres Development Stack for JBoss, combining the Ingres Database, Red Hat’s JBoss Developer Studio and JBoss Enterprise Application Platform. The idea is that Java developers can build data-centric applications in an entirely open source business model, together with the middleware and database required to support the applications in the enterprise.

“In addition to being a much better economic model, it is quicker,” said Burkhardt. “They can get started much more quickly … they don’t have to go and get contracts and procurement and all the rest of it to start a project.”

It’s basically a pre-assembled platform that comes with sample applications in different programming languages. One negative aspect of proprietary and open source alike, Burkhardt said, is the labour of assembling the components, but “what the open source world has said is some of those people want to build their own car … but most people want to step right into a Chevy and get going.”

“On the first day, you are writing business-meaningful logic, and I do think that’s a very important step forward,” said Burkhardt.

According to Laurent Lachal, senior analyst with Boston, Mass.-based research firm Ovum Inc., a pre-assembled platform certainly helps open source adoption in enterprises and independent software vendors, and the offering will help Ingres and Red Hat’s ability to compete with the likes of Oracle and IBM Corp.

“It will help Ingres build momentum and Red Hat consolidate its momentum, but I do not expect its impact to be dramatic, (but) slowly incremental at best,” said Lachal. Bundles are increasingly common in the open source space, he added, “so it is not particularly big news.”

One customer, BBP AG, a Zurich-based provider of a middleware application that connects banks to payment transactions and stock trading, has been using a combination of Ingres, JBoss and Red Hat Linux to process 500 million fund transfers annually. The goal, said BBP’s chief technology officer, Amir Housseini, was to enable the company to focus its efforts on the offering’s business functionality, instead of worrying about porting the application to various platforms.

“When selecting business open source technologies, traditional values matter: quality of products, quality of support, quality of partnering,” said Housseini. The company “can focus efforts on business functionality rather than on technology,” he said.

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