Early MySQL engineer questions whether Oracle is unintentionally killing off the open source database

Preference for proprietary features restricting open source MySQL adoption, says Peter Zaitsev

An experienced MySQL database engineer has questioned whether Oracle might unintentionally kill off the open source database with its preference for adding features to its proprietary systems.

Peter Zaitsev, who worked as a performance engineer at MySQL Inc before the database was bought by Oracle, has published a blog post critical of Big Red's commitment to one of the most popular open source databases.

The Russian software engineer and entrepreneur literally helped write the book on high performance MySQL, and he has previously defended Oracle's stewardship of the open source database. However, in his latest post he said Oracle's moves in the last couple of years to promote its analytics system Heatwave were among the reasons to begin to question the company's motives.

Oracle was invited by The Register to provide a response.

MySQL was created by the company of the same name in the mid-1990s. Sun Microsystems bought the business in 2008, and was in turn bought by Oracle in 2010.

Zaitsev founded Percona, an open source database consultancy, in 2006. In a blog post published on the company website, he said Oracle’s MySQL Enterprise has focused on the features “enterprises would need and developers would care little about,” because developments in Oracle’s MySQL Heatwave analytics database service were more concerning.

“Heatwave includes a number of features that are not available in MySQL Community or MySQL Enterprise, such as acceleration of analytical queries or ML functionality,” he said.

He pointed out that open source MySQL did not even have parallel query execution. “At a time when CPUs with hundreds of cores are coming to market, those cores are not getting significantly faster, which is increasingly limiting performance,” he said.

Vector Search is another feature available in Heatwave but not MySQL, even though it is available in open source PostgreSQL. “While every other major open source database has added support for Vector Search functionality, and MariaDB is working on it, having it as a cloud-only MySQL Heatwave Feature in the MySQL ecosystem is unfortunate, to say the least,” he said. Lastly, Javascript Support had been released as a MySQL Enterprise-only feature, he added.

“All of these break the golden rule mentioned above as they surely restrict MySQL adoption, both from the standpoint of those specific features and from fears about what this seeming policy change means for MySQL’s future,” he said.

“If that is not enough, MySQL seems to suffer from years of neglect in the performance engineering department with significant performance reduction on simple single thread workloads compared to MySQL 5.6. You could claim features cost performance, but MariaDB was able to significantly reduce performance degradation and PostgreSQL even improved performance while adding new features,” added Zaitsev.

In a Linkedin exchange debating the topic, Zaitsev maintained that if Oracle thinks maintaining MySQL should become shared responsibility "because they no more get the value from carrying most of the burden maintaining the project," it could always just "transfer it to Linux Foundation (or other independent non profit entity) and focus on maintaining their internal version (similar to AWS Aurora)." He added that "in this case it would be fair to expect AWS/GCP etc to share the burden of moving Open Source project forward... and I'm sure they would."

Not all of the database pros who responded agreed that Oracle's moves would kill off open source MySQL, with one writing: "I'm not certain. Their focus is on MySQLaaS. I'd have to look what they've done for the server itself to answer this question. I hope not as it would greatly sadden me. I have been busy trying to get a good PgPool setup that works well and scales and I can tell you it's quite lacking in contrast to ProxySQL and MySQL Router."

Zaitsev responded "... focus on DBaaS means the Open Source MySQL is neglected and falling behind it means killing it..."

CTO Mark Callaghan chimed in: "I agree but it hurts to acknowledge that. My community is fading – external contributors who scale MySQL, hack MySQL, file bug reports, fix bugs and sometimes make it better."

MySQL remains the most popular open source database on the DB-Engines ranking system, although PostgreSQL has been gaining fast in recent years. Meanwhile, PostgreSQL has overtaken MySQL as the most popular database for developers, according to the Stack Overflow survey for 2023.

“Unless Oracle turns its attention to the needs modern developers have from a relational database, it will be killing [MySQL], if not through action, then through inaction,” Zaitsev said. ®

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