In a surprise move, Red Hat has announced that version 7 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) will ship with the MariaDB database installed by default, in place of MySQL.
The announcement was made at the company's Red Hat Summit, which wrapped up in Boston on Friday.
MariaDB is a fork of MySQL that was launched in 2009 by original MySQL coder Ulf Michael "Monty" Widenius. It's meant to be a drop-in replacement, meaning any application that runs on MySQL should run unmodified on the MariaDB server. MariaDB does have one important characteristic that MySQL doesn't share, however: MariaDB isn't owned by Oracle.
Oracle acquired MySQL as part of its 2009 purchase of Sun Microsystems and almost immediately began tightening the reins, much to the consternation of MySQL's fans. Support options were cut, and Oracle shifted to an "open core" development model in which the open source database server is sold alongside expensive, proprietary add-ons.
Widenius founded MariaDB largely as a reaction against these unwanted changes, and the project has steadily been gaining converts among the MySQL user community.
A number of popular community-driven Linux distributions have already begun shipping MariaDB in place of MySQL by default, including Arch Linux, OpenSuse, and Slackware. But for RHEL to do so is quite a coup indeed, and somewhat unexpected.
In May, the Fedora Project shipped a beta of Fedora 19 with MariaDB installed by default. But although Fedora is technically the upstream distribution for RHEL, and RHEL 7 will be based on Fedora 19, the actual software bundles that ship with the two distributions often differ significantly.
What's more, last week Red Hat shipped the first beta of Red Hat Software Collections, an officially supported bundle of databases and programming languages for RHEL. But while that offering includes MariaDB, it also comes with MySQL and PostgreSQL, and Red Hat offers no preference among the three.
There is at least one good reason why Red Hat might be itching to move away from MySQL, though – namely, that there's no love lost between Red Hat and Oracle, particularly since the database giant began offering Oracle Linux, a clone of the RHEL code base that lets Oracle keep all the money.
At Red Hat Summit, senior engineering manager Radek Vokál said that Red Hat also expected it would be easier to contribute certain patches and features to MariaDB than to MySQL. Apparently, Oracle has not been particularly amenable.
Vokál said that "some versions" of RHEL 7 will still ship with MySQL, but that MariaDB would be "the main thing" from now on.
The Reg reached out to Red Hat for further clarification, but a spokesperson did not respond by the time we pushed the big, red "Publish" button.
RHEL 7 is expected to ship with MariaDB sometime in the second half of 2013. ®