Google sniffs at MySQL fork MariaDB: Yum. Have an engineer

Keeping the DB alive outside Larry's grasp? Sounds good to Choc Factory

Exclusive Search giant Google has put its support behind an independent fork of MySQL, the famed open-source database that was gulped down by software giant Oracle when it acquired Sun Microsystems.

The Chocolate Factory has sent an engineer to the MariaDB Foundation, which looks after the fork's codebase, community and ecosystem, and has MySQL daddy Monty Widenius himself as its lead developer.

One engineer isn’t much considering the Google-plex’s humongous staff of 45,000, and the moneybags internet ads machine isn't stumping up any money either. But that’s not the point, apparently.

Having Google on board and working on MariaDB at all is of huge significant to Widenius, chief technology officer of a foundation he announced in December 2012. Maria's other sponsors include open source database consultancy SkySQL, Parallels and

Maria won't be owned by a corporate

The objective is for MariaDB to remain the kind of open-source project no single company can own. Widenius has said he regrets not taking steps to stop MySQL, his first love, from eventually being owned by a corporation – namely Oracle.

“That’s the one mistake I made,” Widenius told The Reg in an interview. “Based on the facts I had then, I’d say everything was done right. If I were able to look into the future, I'd have added one thing to the licence: that this licence is GPL but after three years it reverts to BSD, then Oracle wouldn’t have bought Sun because we’d be free within three years and MySQL would be BSD and nobody could take that away.”

BSD is a permissive copy-left licence that allows you to do anything to code, while GPL, also a copy-left licence, requires any changes you make to be returned to the community and that modified versions be marked as changed. MySQL's licensing policy puts it under both a GPL (for devs) and a "commercial licence" for businesses, which will need to pay a fee to Oracle.

SkySQL merger

Widenius created MariaDB after Oracle bought Sun – and with it, MySQL. He founded developer Monty Program to support and maintain MariaDB, which was first released in 2009. SkySQL, the company that provides commercial support for MariaDB and other MySQL variants, merged with Widenius’ Monty Program in April this year.

The reason is to ensure MariaDB’s independent survival as the official MariaDB distro, he said. “SkySQL has lots of power… because they employ lots of engineers. But they are not the ones who design it [MariaDB]. It’s developers who define it and that’s developers outside SkySQL. It’s done as a true open-source project and nobody can take that away.”

Widenius is talking to other unnamed other big companies about becoming Foundation sponsors.

What's in it for Google?

Google for Widenius represents independence and diversification of supporters for his database via an independent Foundation. But what does Google get?

Asked by The Reg, Google declined to comment. We can only guess the advertising giant is keeping its options open to prevent its cloud services from becoming tied into the roadmap and mercurial feature decisions of a single tech rival – Oracle.

AppEngine uses Google’s Cloud SQL for hosted storage.

Cloud SQL is based on MySQL 5.5, but ever since Oracle took ownership of MySQL in 2010, Ellison’s company has asserted its control over the database's development and roadmap, neither courting not accepting input from the outsiders.

Its fellow tech companies don't like this much, as you'd expect. Ironically, one reason Ellison cited for Oracle being the first serious software-maker to ensure its products run on Linux in the late 1990s was hostility at being tied into Microsoft's development roadmap on Windows.

On MariaDB, Google has the power to influence features and keep a working version of MySQL alive and in development beyond Oracle's control.

SkySQL CEO Patrik Sallner gave The Reg his theory on why he thinks Google is joining in. “There are quite a few companies not financially sponsoring the Foundation but [which] are providing resources, because they see the value of being part of the community. That’s another thing we learned from MySQL, to make sure there are enough contributors. At MySQL there were not that many externally,” he said.

“None, none,” Widenus chipped in during our conversation.

“We have Google and several companies saying they are ready to employ full-time developers that they pay for, and that developers will ensure anything they need will be done. You can be sure those features need for critical availability will be there.”

There’s little to choose from between MariaDB and MySQL on a feature level at the moment, but things will change as more changes are made by Oracle to MySQL and by MariaDB’s backers to their fork over time.

Testing... testing... hello?

That's not just because Oracle is setting the roadmap, but also because Larry’s behemoth has gone out of his way to make the job harder for those outside Redwood Shores to implement changes in MySQL forks. Oracle does not release the test cases.

Test cases allow devs test their code against the main product to help ensure compatibility and to ensure the fixes work in all settings and platforms. If test cases are not released, developers cannot easily test and bugs risk popping up again.

Widenius said it’s possible to maintain feature and binary compatibility with MySQL but only as long as Oracle keeps releasing a Community Edition of the database. “We can do that for three to five years easily. As long as there is a demand and that means as long as there’s lots of MySQL users, we can do that,” he said.

He continued: "The code is getting more and more different, but we still have binary compatibility – 99.99 per cent. You can repeat MySQL with MariaDB. Over time things will be less compatible because we are adding so much more to this and we are so much ahead of MySQL.”

Widenius estimated MariaDB is “30 man years” ahead of MySQL, on the interpreter, optimiser, bugs fixed and support for NoSQL. On the latter, MariaDB is being positioned as providing a bridge between relational data types and NoSQL data stores, with connectors already in place for Cassandra and MongoDB.

Future development priorities are improved key access, an expanded range of storage engines, and improved scalability and elasticity for cloud computing.

But a huge bifurcation is a worry to the community and would be especially problematic for MariaDB, as it's trying to build off of MySQL. Sallner reckoned he’s had MySQL customers switch to MariaDB but use remains relatively small.

“The timing will be crucial,” Sallner said. “It makes sense to be closely aligned so the whole ecosystem can be together for now. There’s not enough critical mass around MariaDB and a lot of people would be very concerned if it happened too early.

"There’s a big question about the whole cake – that it’s better the whole cake is strong and there’s more for all of us and we can bring more users to the MySQL ecosystem.”

Until then, Widenus believes MariaDB can ultimately destroy the MySQL’s OEM business – 60 per cent of MySQL is used in somebody else’s product – and MySQL is also used in the cloud. Until then, it’s a waiting game, to which Google would attest. ®

Other stories you might like

  • I was fired for blowing the whistle on cult's status in Google unit, says contractor
    The internet giant, a doomsday religious sect, and a lawsuit in Silicon Valley

    A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. 

    The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for "religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action." It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to the fellowship.

    In his complaint [PDF], filed in a California Superior Court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd lays down a case that he was fired for expressing concerns over the fellowship's influence at Google, specifically in the GDS. When these concerns were reported to a manager, Lloyd was told to drop the issue or risk losing his job, it is claimed. 

    Continue reading
  • Oracle cloud growth up 19% but it's still a market minnow
    Acquisition of health data specialist Cerner adds $15.8b to Big Red's debt

    Oracle has impressed the markets with strong revenue growth for cloud infrastructure and applications-as-a-service.

    However, Oracle is still struggling to gain a larger share of the global cloud market, where it lags behind AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.

    Big Red's total revenue for Q4, which ended May 31, hit $11.8 billion, up 5 per cent on the same period a year ago. Total cloud revenue, including infrastructure and software-as-a-service, reached $2.9 billion, up 19 percent. Cloud ERP Fusion revenue increased 20 percent while NetSuite ERP cloud revenue grew 27 per cent.

    Continue reading
  • Oracle closes $28.3b Cerner buy amid warnings of commercial challenges
    Database titan 'does not buy companies and then lowers costs'

    Oracle has closed the acquisition of Cerner Corporation, a specialist in healthcare software, in a deal set to be worth $28.3 billion.

    But as Larry Ellison, Oracle's chairman of the board and chief technology officer, is set to outline Oracle's strategy for its acquisition's role in healthcare in the coming days, Cerner customers are being warned to expect some surprises in renegotiating their contracts.

    Last month, Cerner said it secured 331 new, expanded and extended client contracts in first quarter, including Ohio-based Blanchard Valley Health System and Virginia-based Mountain Health Network.

    Continue reading
  • UK competition watchdog seeks to make mobile browsers, cloud gaming and payments more competitive
    Investigation could help end WebKit monoculture on iOS devices

    The United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Friday said it intends to launch an investigation of Apple's and Google's market power with respect to mobile browsers and cloud gaming, and to take enforcement action against Google for its app store payment practices.

    "When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards," said Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, in a statement. "As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice."

    The decision to open a formal investigation follows the CMA's year-long study of the mobile ecosystem. The competition watchdog's findings have been published in a report that concludes Apple and Google have a duopoly that limits competition.

    Continue reading
  • End of the road for biz living off free G Suite legacy edition
    Firms accustomed to freebies miffed that web giant's largess doesn't last

    After offering free G Suite apps for more than a decade, Google next week plans to discontinue its legacy service – which hasn't been offered to new customers since 2012 – and force business users to transition to a paid subscription for the service's successor, Google Workspace.

    "For businesses, the G Suite legacy free edition will no longer be available after June 27, 2022," Google explains in its support document. "Your account will be automatically transitioned to a paid Google Workspace subscription where we continue to deliver new capabilities to help businesses transform the way they work."

    Small business owners who have relied on the G Suite legacy free edition aren't thrilled that they will have to pay for Workspace or migrate to a rival like Microsoft, which happens to be actively encouraging defectors. As noted by The New York Times on Monday, the approaching deadline has elicited complaints from small firms that bet on Google's cloud productivity apps in the 2006-2012 period and have enjoyed the lack of billing since then.

    Continue reading
  • Google offers $118m to settle gender discrimination lawsuit
    Don't even think about putting LaMDA on the compensation committee

    Google has promised to cough up $118 million to settle a years-long gender-discrimination class-action lawsuit that alleged the internet giant unfairly pays men more than women.

    The case, launched in 2017, was led by three women, Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, and Kelli Wisuri, who filed a complaint alleging the search giant hires women in lower-paying positions compared to men despite them having the same qualifications. Female staff are also less likely to get promoted, it was claimed.

    Gender discrimination also exists within the same job tier, too, the complaint stated. Google was accused of paying women less than their male counterparts despite them doing the same work. The lawsuit was later upgraded to a class-action status when a fourth woman, Heidi Lamar, joined as a plaintiff. The class is said to cover more than 15,000 people.

    Continue reading
  • Google recasts Anthos with hitch to AWS Outposts
    If at first you don't succeed, change names and try again

    Google Cloud's Anthos on-prem platform is getting a new home under the search giant’s recently announced Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) portfolio, where it will live on as a software-based competitor to AWS Outposts and Microsoft Azure Stack.

    Introduced last fall, GDC enables customers to deploy managed servers and software in private datacenters and at communication service provider or on the edge.

    Its latest update sees Google reposition Anthos on-prem, introduced back in 2020, as the bring-your-own-server edition of GDC. Using the service, customers can extend Google Cloud-style management and services to applications running on-prem.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022