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MySQL's new best friend forever? Oracle

As Oracle bolsters MySQL development community with engineering and support resources, MySQL may be better able to fend off competition from the NoSQL movement.

MySQL, once the darling of the database world, is now under attack from all sides. The NoSQL movement questions MySQL's relevance for the Web applications that made it hugely popular. The Drizzle project derides its relevance for the cloud.

MySQL still has one major ally, however, and it's the one that most people thought was its biggest enemy:


The European Commission, among others, worried that Oracle's purchase of Sun, which bought MySQL for $1 billion in 2008, would cripple database competition by stifling MySQL's development. According to Wim Coakaerts, Oracle's Vice President of Linux Engineering, and Monica Kumar, Oracle's senior director of Linux, Virtualization, and Open Source Marketing, with whom I spoke at last week's Open Source Business Conference, however, the inverse is happening:

Oracle has significantly increased investment in MySQL, and will continue to do so.

This will come as welcome news to MySQL customers, because it means that the MySQL database gets the benefit of Oracle's experience in building databases. As Coakaerts suggested:

Oracle has over 30 years' worth of database engineering expertise, and we're making that available to MySQL engineers to strengthen its development. We have no interest in crippling MySQL. Quite the opposite.

Such expertise, coupled with Oracle's larger support and sales organizations, should serve to significantly scale up MySQL's development and business.

Most of these benefits are speculative, of course: Oracle has only just started to inject them into MySQL, and could decide to divert them at any time. And they're dependent to some degree on MySQL employees sticking around to help implement the improvements Oracle suggests. Given the exodus of some key members of the MySQL team, Oracle needs to focus on retention.

But assuming Oracle continues to invest in MySQL, a good assumption given its need to undermine Microsoft's SQL Server database in a way that its own database may be ill-suited to do, the little-open-source-database-that-could will become the not-so-little-open-source-database-that-does.

This should make everyone happy, including the open-source community that to date has doubted Oracle's intentions for MySQL. It could also lead to improvements in MySQL that hold off the NoSQL and other insurgents, at least in those applications that are reasonably well-suited to a relational database.

(Having said that, I'm not convinced that the NoSQL data stores are a suitable replacement for relational databases for most applications, and they're certainly not a drop-in replacement for MySQL or Oracle in existing applications.)

NoSQL data stores are likely to claim a chunk of the Web applications hitherto reserved for MySQL, just as Drizzle may hurt MySQL in cloud computing. But Oracle's investment in MySQL should strengthen the open-source database as it makes in-roads to enterprise computing and continues to dominate many kinds of Web applications.