MySQL CEO offers mixed view of Oracle

Martin Mickos calls one of Oracle's products "crippleware" and then names the company as a partner of the year.

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Stephen Shankland
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SANTA CLARA, Calif.--In an illustration of just how rapidly change is sweeping the database market, MySQL Chief Executive Martin Mickos named Oracle as a partner of the year just minutes after effectively calling one of its products "crippleware."

Mickos, speaking at the MySQL Users Conference here on Wednesday, praised Oracle and took it to task for different elements of its software. The contrast stems from the fact that, on the one hand, MySQL relies on software called InnoDB that Oracle acquired in 2005, and on the other, database leaders Oracle and IBM are responding to MySQL's sudden emergence as a competitor by releasing free entry-level versions.

Marten Mickos Marten Mickos

The InnoDB "storage engine," which remains open-source software, is firmly in Mickos' plus column. "We renewed our contract with Oracle for several years," he said.

In the minus column are the no-cost database products such as Oracle's Express Edition or IBM's DB2 Community Edition, which Mickos labeled as "crippleware," designed to hook customers on full-featured but expensive versions.

"There is no freedom in Express Editions and so forth (in) which the word 'free' is used," Mickos said. "If a company gives out a version that's free of charge but closed-source, they stand to gain nothing until you upgrade to their very expensive versions."

In contrast, open-source database companies such as his own do benefit from free versions even without upselling customers, gaining bug fixes, community support and other community activities, he argued. "Some of the best Web sites are the MySQL gotchas. We go there every month and say, 'What do we need to do next?'"

Open-source upstarts that challenge proprietary software rivals are nothing new, but Mickos has some clout. MySQL garnered $40 million in revenue in 2005 and its software figures prominently at online companies such as Google, Yahoo and PokerRoom.com. And Oracle tried to buy MySQL.

This week, the company announced a new three-year partnership with Hewlett-Packard. Under the deal, HP will resell the software, provide support, and participate in joint marketing and training activities, said Christine Martino, who became vice president of HP's Open Source and Linux Organization in November. Martino spoke after Mickos at the conference.

Mickos was bullish on Oracle's InnoDB, the most widely used engine within MySQL. He gave one of three partner-of-the-year awards to Ken Jacobs, Oracle's "employee No. 18" and vice president of product strategy for server technologies.

Despite that, MySQL is making sure it doesn't rely solely on InnoDB. It's moved to a plug-in architecture that lets different engines be plugged into MySQL. And at the show, it announced it will certify those engines.

MySQL is working on its own engine, called Falcon, and has a partnership with Solid Information Technology for another called SolidDB. SolidDB and Oracle's InnoDB both will participate in the certification program.