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12/4/2008
05:01 PM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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"Many Known and Unknown Fatal Bugs" in MySQL 5.1!?

What to make of Michael Widenus's astounding blog posting, "Oops, we did it again (MySQL 5.1 released as GA with crashing bugs)"? The signs have been there: MySQL has worked for over three years (!) to bring out 5.1. EWeek quoted Zack Urlocker, VP of products for Sun's Database Group, last May as claiming, "This version now has zero bugs," a statement disputed even then by Widenus, who effectively characterized MySQL bug management as a shell game, and GA did take 7 more months.

What to make of Michael Widenus's astounding blog posting, "Oops, we did it again (MySQL 5.1 released as GA with crashing bugs)"? The signs have been there: MySQL, as an independent company and then as a Sun Microsystems subsidiary, has worked for over three years (!) to bring out 5.1. EWeek quoted Zack Urlocker, VP of products for Sun's Database Group, last May as claiming, "This version now has zero bugs," a statement disputed even then by Widenus, who effectively characterized MySQL bug management as a shell game, and GA release did take 7 more months.Widenus is a founder and the principal developer of MySQL and served as CTO until Sun's MySQL acquisition earlier this year. In his November 29 blog posting, he wrote –

To prove my points, here [are] some metrics and critical bugs for 5.1:
  • We still have 20 known and tagged crashing and wrong result bugs in 5.1, 35 more if we add the known crashing bugs from 5.0 that are likely to also be present in 5.1.
  • We still have more than 180 serious bugs (P2) in 5.1. Some of these can be found here.
  • We have more than 300 known and verified less critical bugs that are not going to be addressed soon. (The total reported number of bugs to the MySQL server is of course much larger.)

Many of the open bugs, Widenus reports, relate to partitioning, a feature useful in data warehousing that is offered by MySQL's competitors including rival open-source DBMSes PostgreSQL and Ingres. "Ingres has great support for partitioning, and it means our customers can ask a question however they want and get a fast response. You don't have to view the data in just one hierarchical fashion," according to Anthony Howcroft, DATAllegro General Manager, Europe, quoted in a 2008 white paper.

Widenus relays a candid, illuminating response to the self-posed question, "So what went wrong with MySQL 5.1?" The conclusions he draws — I'd (simplistically) sum up his answer as "inadequate development and release management" — are useful reminders for anyone engaged in a software or application development project. They are not, however, an indictment of open-source development models or processes (or of Sun).

Other, recent MySQL Enterprise non-open-source software releases seem impressive, in particular MySQL Query Analyzer and MySQL Enterprise Monitor. I wonder if the people and management expense of bringing them out consumed attention that would otherwise have gone to the MySQL engine. In any case, I haven't tried the new tools myself. I run MySQL on three machines — I'll be upgrading them to 5.1, per Widenus's recommendation — but I'm not a paying subscriber. Which brings me to my conclusion –

I have found MySQL to be a solid, capable database platform in 12 years of use. I've run MySQL to back-end Web sites hosting an OLAP application, an on-line auction, dynamic generation of menus and of statistical tables, and a survey, and I've used the DBMS for a variety of office needs. I am hugely appreciative of the availability of such robust, usable database software in a free, open-source edition. And I hope and expect Sun and MySQL will take the steps necessary to reprioritize product quality.What to make of Michael Widenus's astounding blog posting, "Oops, we did it again (MySQL 5.1 released as GA with crashing bugs)"? The signs have been there: MySQL has worked for over three years (!) to bring out 5.1. EWeek quoted Zack Urlocker, VP of products for Sun's Database Group, last May as claiming, "This version now has zero bugs," a statement disputed even then by Widenus, who effectively characterized MySQL bug management as a shell game, and GA did take 7 more months.

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