BI and Data Warehouse Vendors Chime in on Oracle's MySQL Commitments

Open source partners say promises are a positive development for popular data source and growing data warehousing alternative.
Cautious optimism. This was the basic reaction shared this week by open-source business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing vendors commenting on ten commitments Oracle announced December 14 on how it would handle MySQL. Issued in hopes of winning approval of its acquisition of MySQL owner Sun Microsystems by the European Commission, the commitments made a favorable impression on open-source database partners and OEM licensees.

"The fact that Oracle said it would continue to make the [MySQL] storage engine API available was very reassuring," says Mark Burton, CEO of Infobright, an OEM licensee that taps MySQL as the basis of its analytic database. "There were also some gray areas in the GPL (General Public License) for those who were linking to the API but not fully embedding, bundling or distributing MySQL. By my read, Oracle's second commitment on non-assertion says that's just fine."

Until about 18 months ago, Burton was an executive vice president at MySQL, and his responsibilities included managing the database's storage engine program and related partnerships and licensing agreements. That program is now "at the root" of many of the competitive concerns raised by the EU, Burton says. He sees Oracle's concessions on non-assertion and the granting of five-year license extensions (in point three) as "putting good legal commitments in place."

Anything that would promote a strong open-source database is good news to Bruce Armstrong, CEO at Kickfire, a MySQL OEM licensee that offers a data warehouse appliance built on MySQL.

"We think that these specific promises that Oracle is making are good because the more that MySQL is considered a supported database product, the better," Armstrong says. "We remain neutral on whether or not MySQL should be independent or part of Oracle, but if it is going to be part of Oracle, we think these are good promises."

Kickfire and Infobright are among the few vendors that offer scalable data warehousing environments built on MySQL. The database is predominantly used to run transactional applications and Web sites, so it's mostly a data source rather than the epicenter of BI analysis.

At open source BI vendor Jaspersoft, another MySQL OEM partner, CEO Brian Gentile estimates that some 80 percent of the company's commercial customers are using MySQL somewhere in the organization for operational data stores, whereas only 10 percent are using it as the basis of an analytic data mart or data warehouse. Indeed, this difference in deployment styles is one of the reasons Gentile and others don't see Oracle and MySQL as head-on competitors.

"MySQL has not, historically, competed with Oracle's traditional database strengths, though you could say it's headed in that [scalability] direction," Gentile explains. "If Oracle manages MySQL cleverly, it could be used as an entry-level database it could use to seed the market broadly and then, over time, compete more handily against databases such as Microsoft SQL Server."

Even if Oracle were to neglect MySQL, Gentile contends that forks of MySQL and other open source databases would quickly emerge to fill the void left by a diminished MySQL. What's more, he says, European Commission objections to the Oracle-Sun deal are actually doing more harm than good when it comes to promoting a fair and competitive marketplace.

"For the last six months, the EC has held several companies in limbo, which actually helps others to compete and prevents MySQL from competing well," he points out. "It's ironic that their actions are having the opposite effect of what they've suggested. My take all along is that they should step aside and let the market do what it needs to do."

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