Despite concerns that Oracle would be unfriendly to open source projects acquired through the merger with Sun, former MySQL CEO Marten Mickos says the MySQL code base is in fantastic condition.
In an interview this week, Mickos said Oracle may not understand or care much about open source and the task of fostering community involvement, but Oracle seems committed to the products themselves and he has no complaints about Oracle’s technical expertise. Version 5.5 of the MySQL database “probably is the best MySQL version ever produced,” and the upcoming version 5.6 is looking strong as well, Mickos said.
“It’s brilliant engineering and they are under the GPL license, completely open source, fantastically built, a low number of bugs, well tested and QA’d. All of that is fantastic,” Mickos said. “But where you see it already changing is that in community engagement, discussion forums, bug databases, online documentation, you see how they are moving MySQL into the same mode as other Oracle products. Many in the community will react against it and feel that it’s not as open and open source as it used to be and that’s true. That’s why you see new companies springing up and catering to that need. But the core product, the actual code, is in better shape than ever. And I think they will keep it that way.”
Sun acquired MySQL in 2008, with Mickos staying on as a vice president until the next year. Mickos said he loved working for Sun but “didn’t think Sun could survive on its own.” Shortly after he announced his departure, the Oracle merger was revealed, with Sun ceasing to exist as a standalone company in early 2010. Mickos is now the CEO of cloud vendor Eucalyptus and is in the Boston area this week for the Red Hat Summit.
Oracle, Mickos said, has continued development of MySQL under the same vision set forth before the mergers. MySQL’s traditional limitation was that it couldn’t scale up, preventing the database from exploiting Sun’s big servers. But MySQL could scale out, and that is becoming a very important attribute in the new world of cloud computing, he said.
When asked if Oracle is doing a better job with MySQL than he did, Mickos said, “I would tend to think I was a wonderful CEO and I did everything absolutely right. And we did it very well. The plans we had, they [Oracle] continued to execute on it. The long-term version, they are continuing to execute on it. They are reaching new heights with the technology, exactly as we would have done on our own. But they are really doing it. Many times when technology is acquired by somebody they sort of stop developing it or development slows down. But it hasn’t — they are moving along on the same ambitious plan we had three years ago, four years ago.”
Mickos is moving along too, with Eucalyptus Systems, maker of an open source cloud-building platform. “We are trying to build one of the most significant software companies of this era,” he said.
After leaving Sun, Mickos sent an email to friends “asking them, ‘What’s bigger than open source?'” Cloud computing was the answer. With the proliferation of smartphones, laptops, iPads, Amazon Kindles, even medical devices and electrical meters, a new style of computing is needed, he said.
“If you continue as today with dedicated servers for every application,” Mickos said, “the planet will be full of servers and there will be no room for humans. Well, I’m exaggerating now. But they would take up too much space, too much production, too much electricity, too much management. The only way to deal with this increase in computing is to make the compute resources fungible and pool them into one place so that any compute cycle can be put into the use of any application at any time.”
Amazon, despite a serious outage in its Elastic Compute Cloud last month, is “doing an amazing job” furthering cloud computing, Mickos said.
“Silicon Valley companies have difficulty coming to terms with the fact that a bookseller from Seattle is beating them to the punch when it comes to advanced distributed computing, which is what cloud computing essentially is,” Mickos noted.
Mickos argued that the Amazon API has basically become a de facto standard for cloud computing that other vendors are adhering to, much like hardware manufacturers built IBM PC-compatible computers many years ago.
Public clouds and private clouds, software as a service, infrastructure as a service and platform as a service will all be necessary going forward, and open source software will give customers the flexibility to choose the rights tools for the job, Mickos said.
While Microsoft and, to a lesser degree, VMware pursue vertical stacks characterized by what Mickos believes is lock-in and lack of choice, Eucalytpus created a flexible architecture offering customers their choice of hypervisor and operating system. By adhering to the Amazon API, Eucalyptus lets customers move workloads between private and public clouds, Mickos said.
Public clouds, like Amazon EC2, are further along than private clouds, but “both will be massive businesses” and complement each other, Mickos said. “We want to dominate the private cloud business and we’re happy to see Amazon and others play for the public cloud.”
Although open source has failed to disrupt key Microsoft products like Exchange, SharePoint, Office and Windows, the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/PHP/Python) has become standard on scale-out Web servers, Mickos notes.
“Everyone on the Web or in the cloud that matters runs on Linux,” he said, adding that the biggest battles are now being fought over mobile and cloud computing, “The LAMP stack is the standard solution, and the battle is now in cloud computing, cloud infrastructures and cloud APIs,” Mickos said.
Microsoft has a loyal user base and a good product in Windows Azure, Mickos said, but as an open source advocate he believes the open source model is “superior and we think it’s taking over the world.” With Azure, you don’t get to choose which hypervisor to run servers and applications on, he noted. “You go to Azure and become a customer, but that’s the only decision you can make,” he said.
Mickos also discussed his Finnish background and the fact that his country produced the likes of Linux creator Linus Torvalds and projects such as IRC and SSH. The MySQL company was based in Sweden.
“It’s probably a coincidence but it’s not completely surprising,” Mickos said. “Scandinavian countries in general are very open. There is a strong tradition of working together. I think that Finland has a little bit of a technology craze and is a little bit wilder than the others.”