MySQL CEO Mickos

MySQL CEO Mickos Looks to Present, Future Opps

MySQL CEO Martin Mickos is always looking to the future, and not one to bugged by the past. OET had the chance to speak with Mickos about the immediate and long-term future of MySQL. Among the topics: relations with Oracle, a growing MySQL partner network, the dramatic uptake in MySQL 5 in the enterprise, and even his views on the webification of the enterprise. For a quick read and a great interview, read on.

An Open Enterprise Trends
Interview with Martin Mickos, CEO

OET: What is this theme MySQL would like to put forward for 2006?
Mickos: I think the overall theme is that we are building something fantastic for the online world, and that the whole world, the enterprise and everyone, is going online.

OET: So, the message is that it takes MySQL to go online?
Mickos: To really get ready for the online world it takes a strong LAMP stack with partners. This year was great for MySQL’s partners. The [MySQL User Conference] was oversold and huge. My first LinuxWorld was smaller than what we had this year. And it’s just little us.

OET: Speaking of partners, things seem to be getting a bit better between MySQL and Oracle? Can Oracle be both a partner and a competitor?
Mickos: Yes, the world was a little bit shocked when Oracle acquired Innobase. . And yes, we thought there might be negative impact on our company and our users. But, we come out of it all even stronger. We have renewed our contract for innoDB with Oracle, and we even nominated them as a MySQL Partner of the Year.

OET: Why would Oracle merit that kind of attention?
Mickos: Because they have done a fantastic job of working with us.

OET: And speaking of storage, MySQL seems to have attracted a lot of partners and other interested companies since the uncertainty last year over InnoDB?
Mickos: Yes, there are many other storage options for MySQL now, such as our new partner Solid and Falcon, which we acquired our own, and InnoDB and of course MySQLCluster.

OET: So, you see storage as growing in importance for MySQL?
Mickos: Yes. As we see it, storage engines will be increasingly important. And work continues to bring MySQL storage support to the enterprise.
MySQL and InnoDB are clearly ready, and Falcon and Solid have a history in the enterprise and we continue to work on making them fully-fitted for MySQL.

OET: What does MySQL’s interest in working with storage partners say about the near-term enterprise adoption and market demand for MySQL?
Mickos: This new wave of web-centered applications for the enterprise presents special, new architectural benefits. When you look at it from the applications’ point of view, you have a variety of storage needs within one application: Transactional, Search, Log, Archiving data. It hasn’t dawned on the world, except us, that you can use different storage engines in the same application.

OET: So MySQL’s goal is to have a variety of storage engine options for different application needs, and not simply let these storage engines compete head-to-head against one another?
Mickos: That’s exactly it. You know many people ask us which one is better. But asking which is better is not the point. The real point is to let users build hybrid solutions for applications, where you might use more than one storage engine for a single application – and be able to use just the right engine for the right purpose.

OET: Hmm, that’s an interesting perspective. Would you have a MySQL Use Case example for that approach?
Mickos: Let’s take the example of a web site that has look-up tables that have to be super fast. MySQLCluster is good for primary key look-ups. But then, the application also needs to store the web transactions, for that you can use Falcon. And third, you will also need to store a lot of logon and traffic information, as well as archive your data, and for that you use the archive storage engines.

OET: For transactions support, it would seem that MySQL has at least two options so far, InnoDB and Solid? Is that right?
Mickos: Yes, and if you were to ask me which one should you choose, my response would be, ‘Let Darwin decide.’ Both these choices have skilled people with a competitive mindset, so we will allow friendly competition among MySQL partners and leave it to the community to tell us which is better. Or if both are good.

OET: So, MySQL seems to be focusing a lot more energy on helping create the partner ecosystem, if that’s the right word for it?
Mickos: There were so many database companies calling us after Oracle acquired Innobase and asked us if we need a storage engine by any chance We have some and there will be more, and o ensure that, we need to create a level playing field for partners. To support them, there are a lot of tests which used to be internal which we are now making external.. We believe that thru modularity you can build architecture of participation, and then you can be stronger than the sum of the components.
MySQL will not pick a winner, per se.

OET: So does this focus on storage engines and other partner’s means that MySQL is also looking to increase visibility with core enterprise architectures, rather than smaller users or individual database programmers?
Mickos: Well, I think we are already pretty visible to all parts of the enterprise. But, to your point, we didn’t start with the guys reading their SQL books. MySQL originally appealed to the outcasts — to those people that weren’t DBAs. And we learned from that something important: You get a position in the market not by serving those who are well served, but those who are underserved.

More about MySQL and Oracle
OET: Let’s drill down a bit on MySQL’s status with Oracle update. Now that you you’re your licensing agreement for InnoDB you are friends again?
Mickos: We have always been friends. We have never been un-friends.

Well, would you say there is even a deeper friendship to come? Do you see any areas where MySQL and Oracle might share technologies or ideas under a joint partnership, or have Oracle play a larger role in the community?
Mickos: [Laughs.] We would love that, but there is no foundation for that.

OET” Given how much uncertainty Oracle put your company and the MySQL user community, why would you offer to make Oracle a Partner of the Year?
Mickos: Any other database company acquiring a component of what could have been seen as of a competitor would have done something nasty. But did they? No. People are blinded by some historical anger and hatred of Oracle, but Oracle has not been nasty to us. And in fact, Oracle has been supportive of us. How? Have they continued to fix bugs? Yes. Have they continued the contract without changes? Yes, again. .

OET: That said, many of your core supporters and long-time MySQL users remain suspicious of Oracle, don’t they?
Mickos: Yes, but we will do what the Russians do. Trust by Verify. We verify with everybody.

Fair enough. How do you verify? Or, in this case, how are you verifying Oracle continues to be a good partner?
Mickos: They prove they are good everyday by fixing bugs and responding to our requests. As long as they do so, we have nothing negative to say. On the contrary, we think it is a positive that Oracle is so good at supporting MySQL. They stated, ‘Guys, we will support you,’ We said, ‘Sure you will.’ To tell the truth, we didn’t know what to expect. But we said to ourselves, ‘Let’s not judge Oracle based on what others say.’ And to this point, they haven’t done anything negative towards us, or stated anything negative toward us.

OET: Really? I seem to remember some harsh words?
Mickos: Maybe they ridiculed Open Source and us in particular at some point, but that was a long time ago.

OET: I think there are many MySQL supporters who are still wondering why it took Oracle almost a year to surface and work with you on InnoDB?
Mickos: Yes, perhaps that’s right. I can’t speak for them. But at this point who cares. We have reached an important milestone by having a good InnoDB contract with them and at the [MySQL User’s Conference], so – so far so good.

An Update on MySQL 5
OET: How well is MySQL 5 doing, especially when it comes to supporting mission critical applications and getting MySQL to play more of a role in transactions?
Mickos: My favorite example is Right Now Technologies, which offers software as a service. The company is serving 5,000 customers, and 4,995 run on a LAMP stack and only 5 customers run on an old time database because they asked for it. Nearly every single customer runs on MySQL, and they have 99.99 uptime. They supply customer service support to many companies, including some Fortune 500 ones. So there you have Fortune 500 companies running MySQL for a mission-critical application.

OET: What has most surprised you about MySQL 5?
Mickos: We were surprised when 39% already said they use MySQL 5 in production, so that is a pretty quick update. And total downloads are about 8 million. And, here is another surprise, which sounds negative, but I view as is positive. We have found new types of bugs. At first we got nervous about this. We said, ‘Hey, is this bad news for us?’ We looked into it and found out, ‘No, it’s good news.’ And that’s because we discovered that MySQL 5 is being used and tested and prototyped in areas that people didn’t use MySQL before.

OET: So, the anxiety of putting MySQL into mission-critical apps is beginning to disappear?
Mickos: It will not completely disappear, and it will take time.

OET: As to other Open Source options, Linux has become a no-brainer now even for many mission-critical applications in an enterprise. How close would you say is MySQL to Linux for your target customers?
Mickos: We are clearly a no-brainer in the front tiers, development prototyping and all of those. We know there are old time MIS orgs that have this mindset that says ‘We always developed on DB2,’ and so that will always be a challenge. And, I even look at Dell and I see that even they haven’t penetrated the data center yet either. So, the message is that a software or hardware company doesn’t need to get into the datacenter to be important to IT.

Future Opportunities, Trends in MySQL
OET: Fair enough. But that said, it is important for MySQL to get off just a simple web stack isn’t it?
Mickos: I look at it a bit differently. In my view, the entire enterprise will become webified. Client/server architecture is 30 years old now, and so we are becoming unlocked from our thinking that client/server is the most fantastic architecture. The new applications will be built with web services architectures for composite applications. And, client/server just doesn’t lend itself well to that sort of thing. So, I think our expansion into the enterprise will go hand-in-hand with web services architectures.

OET: Speaking of futures what about MySQL’s view of SOA? And, how is your partnership with SAP going?
Mickos: We’ve been working on this project with SAP for 2 years. It is a 4-year program, and it is going according to plan. We’ve seen prototypes for some time, but there are many things we still need to get in shape. We have passed the functional tests. We have added precision mathematics and substantial cursor support (which are both required by SAP’s applications) So, now we are working on the tuning and trimming and scalability requirements.

OET: And what about XML> How important does MySQL see XML going forward?
Mickos: XML is getting more important. But, we ask our customers about XML, and they say it is not yet mainstream for them. Not so much, there are many wrappers you can use. But RSS is important as well. We have RSS wrappers for MySQL. We put xPath support in MySQL 5.1, but overall XML is a nice acronym that can stand for a thousand little things you can do. At this point, I don’t think we will create a separate XML engine. {Long pause].Well, well who knows? Maybe we will. Never say never.

OET: What other trends have your interest?
Mickos: Broadly, I would say that Web 2.0 is very exciting. There are some fascinating innovations out there for how to use a database, such as location [services]. Also, there is a trend of the consumerization of business that is very exciting.

OET: I don’t think I’ve heard that term before, what is the ‘consumerization’ of business?
Mickos: I would call it those technologies that were built for hobbyists or personal use that are now being adapted for enterprise use. Look at the Wiki’s and the collaboration sites and you see how the stream of innovation is from the hobby side into the enterprise – not the other way around. Years ago, the FAX machine was invested for the enterprise and finally consumers got to use it. But today it is the other way around.

OET: And that brings up one last issue. Many of your long-time MySQL users are a bit worried that with all your success, MySQL will forget the individual Open Source user?
Mickos: Well, the company will always make mistakes. So for me the main thing is that if people are worried that’s a good sign. It means they want us to success. And, yes, we will become suits. But inside the suit we will always have wrinkled t-shirts.