Oracle chief architect unveils MySQL roadmap

Ever since Oracle’s acquisition of Sun, MySQL users have been nervous about Oracle’s commitment to the open source database, given Oracle’s own database product line. At the O’Reilly MySQL Conference that began today in Santa Clara, Calif., Edward Screven, Oracle’s chief corporate architect took to the stage to win over the hearts and minds of the users with a simple message: MySQL matters to Oracle.


“MySQL has some properties that Oracle does not,” Screven said in an interview with InfoWorld before the keynote speech. “It’s small, it’s easy to install. It’s easy for developers to get going with it.”


The MySQL open source database lets Oracle target a segment of the market it’s not reaching with Oracle Database. “It’s important for us as a business for MySQL to be successful. For that to happen, we have to keep investing in it,” Screven said.


Screven said Oracle is already bringing some big performance improvements by integrating the MySQL and InnoDB teams — increases of up to 35 percent for MySQL databases operating with several hundred concurrent connections. The forthcoming new version of MySQL gets its speed improvements from using even finer-grain locking of rows and avoiding some of the contention for tables.


MySQL is in charge of parsing the SQL queries and interacting with outside clients, but it delegates responsibility for storing the data to several different engines with different properties. The InnoDB engine offers transactional processing, a requirement for ensuring data consistency in case of hardware failure. (Oracle purchased the Finnish company Innobase in 2005, a move that led many to predict that the company would eventually move to purchase MySQL.)


“Part of the problem that used to exist between InnoDB and MySQL was that we didn’t have coordinated review cycles. It was very hard to have improvements roll into the final product,” Screven said.


Screven noted that the performance boost, as well as several other planned enhancements, will be included in both the community and commercial editions. However, some features, such as hot backup, will be found only in the commercial editions. (Hot backup had been a separate product but will now be rolled in to the enterprise edition of MySQL.)


Under Oracle’s ownership, “I don’t see foresee any substantial changes from how MySQL AB or Sun made the distinction [between what was in the community and commercial editions],” Screven told InfoWorld. “I expect that core features will end up in community edition. There will be some value-add, like monitoring or backup, that make sense in the enterprise edition.”


While Screven said that Oracle definitely wants to run MySQL as a business to make money, he emphasized that he and others at the company liked the way the open source community edition made it easy for people to start up projects. “It would be a mistake for us to starve the community edition because that would impinge upon the ubiquity of MySQL,” he said.


The larger MySQL community now includes several forks of the MySQL core tool like MariaDB and Drizzle produced by ex-MySQL employees. Both are experimenting with different data storage engines and other enhancements. Screven wished them the best of luck, but suggested that the new Oracle-backed MySQL will continue to focus on taking care of commercial customers.


“I think it will be hard for those guys to create a forked product with the kind of commercial support that our customers need for production applications,” Screven said. “We’re really focused on ensuring that MySQL becomes a better product and appeals to our customers. What we’re fundamentally selling here is support.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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