Open-source MariaDB, a MySQL fork, challenges Oracle

Open-source MariaDB, a MySQL fork, challenges Oracle

Summary: MariaDB, the MySQL fork database management system, is throwing down the gauntlet to Oracle by forming a foundation to promote its alternative DBMS software.

MariaDB is challenging Oracle and MySQL.

MariaDB, an open-source database management system (DBMS) and MySQL fork has been gaining inroads in enterprise software and its founders formed a foundation, the MariaDB Foundation, to promote its software.

Specifically, "the MariaDB Foundation exists to improve database technology, including standards implementation, interoperability with other databases, and building bridges to other types of database such as transactional and NoSQL. To deliver this the Foundation provides technical work in reviewing, merging, testing, and releasing the MariaDB product suite. The Foundation also provides infrastructure for the MariaDB project and the user and developer communities."

This might strike you as much ado about nothing. What's another DBMS in a world where Oracle owns the most popular open-source DBMS: MySQL? What makes it noteworthy is that a year after Sun brought MySQL in 2008 for a billion dollars, Michael 'Monty' Widenius, MySQL's founder went his own way and started his own fork of the DBMS. Today, we know that fork as MariaDB.

According to Widenius, MariaDB is faster, more secure and has more features than MySQL. Sergei Golubchik, MariaDB's VP of architecture, also argues that Oracle is slowing turning MySQL into a closed source program.

Thus, as far as the MariaDB crew are concerned, “MariaDB continues the project started 18 years ago when we founded MySQL, with code maintained by the same dedicated core team. The time is right for an independent organization to to safeguard the interests of MariaDB users and developers as we head towards MariaDB 10.” 

In a statement, Widenius said, "Tens of millions of users rely on MariaDB and MySQL and they have more to thank than just all the excellent developers and persons helping to package and distribute MariaDB and MySQL. MariaDB exists thanks to the strength of the GPL and the efforts of the organizations who defend it such as our friends at the Software Freedom Conservancy and the Free Software Foundation Europe. The MariaDB Foundation will provide leadership on technical, legal, and policy matters of interest to all the community."

Will any of this matter? It depends on who you ask. Dan Kusnetzky, a ZDNet columnist, and well-regarded analyst thinks, "They face an entrenched community that our already using MySQL and might not see a need to move or even consider an alternative."

Matt Asay, VP of corporate strategy for 10gen, makers of MongoDB, a NoSQL DBMS, believes, however, that this just shows that, "No company ever truly 'buys' an open-source project; at least, not without also undertaking the responsibility for nurturing its community. Oracle seems to have thought it was acquiring MySQL, the company, when it acquired Sun, and that this would be worth the same even if the company didn't take care of MySQL, the community. In this it was wrong. The MySQL database is only as valuable as the community around it and Oracle, trying to monetize its MySQL asset, has put cash before community, too stringently gating access to the MySQL code through enterprise subscription agreements. The best functionality is now hidden. Every company needs to sell, but Oracle has sold out MySQL's community in the process."

Bill Weinberg, Senior Director of Olliance Services, an open-source consulting company, said, "The coming together of the MariaDB Foundation to serve the worldwide user and developer base of MariaDB (aka. MySQL) is testimony to the resourcefulness and flexibility of open source software. MariaDB joins a handful of foundations formed around key OSS technologies – Linux, Apache, the FSF, and most recently OpenStack – to bolster community-based development and foster multiple support channels and business models around a strategic code base. It's a good thing for everyone"

Oracle, even as it might make use of MariaDB code in MySQL, might beg to differ.

Weinberg continued, "From its initial release in 1995, this code has always been 'multi-sourced,' becoming ubiquitous through the efforts of its commercial suppliers (MySQL, Sun, Oracle, SkySQL, et al.), from direct access to community repositories, from inclusion in all popular Linux distributions, and from its integral role in the fundamental LAMP stack that powers enterprise data centers and vast swaths of the web. It has survived nominal forking (Drizzle), etc.) by adhering to core design principles, APIs [application programming interfaces] and by emphasizing interoperability."

So it is that Weinberg believes that "the MariaDB foundation will help align the various commercial and free versions of MySQL by providing neutral ground for innovation and a shared road-map for evolution. The Foundation, if successful, will represent a change in center of gravity, but rather than negatively impacting any one organization, its existence will enable large and small players to compete openly to add value to a shared MySQL project."

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Topics: Data Management, Enterprise Software, Open Source, Oracle, Software, Software Development

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  • A fork yes, but with all the "eyes" still not spotting the same bugs

    Not sure saying we'll fix all the common bugs faster after they get exposed as zero days is all that compelling...
    Johnny Vegas
  • A new project with a brand new fork

    So, the real question is how many decades before this team will make a difference and convince anyone to leave the real product for their copy.

    maybe 3 years for Release 1, and another couple years fixing the bugs?

    History will repeat itself on this one, just like Open and Libre office. Both are a decade behind the industry leaders.
    • Re: how many decades

      About 0.001. Look how quickly everybody moved from OpenOffice to LibreOffice: Oracle will get its nose bloodied again, in exactly the same way.
      • Still using OpenOffice here (on my Linux desktop)

        As it's a bit less bloated than LibreOffice (even if not quite as feature rich). I also suspect that many Windows and OS X users are continuing to use OpenOffice as one can still go to and download the software. Many of these users are probably oblivious that it is now managed by The Apache Software Foundation. Apache OpenOffice version 3.4 is currently at 25 million downloads and counting.

        When you state that "everybody moved from OpenOffice to LibreOffice", I interpret this to mean the various Linux distros with their 1-2% desktop market share. LOL.

        As for Oracle's nose getting bloodied, this is funny. Oracle attempted to monetize OpenOffice and failed. The OpenOffice community split before Oracle could come to grips with what they should do with it. Larry Ellison likely considers the LibreOffice devs as mutineers (if he considers them at all).

        If any party's nose was bloodied, it was the greater open-source community as now resources are being split to manage two large and complex projects, LibreOffice and OpenOffice, instead of one project. I'm quite sure that this made many at Microsoft smile.

        As for MySQL, there's no doubt that Oracle intends to monetize this project too. It will be interesting to see how the MariaDB fork plays out. Oracle still has InnoDB.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • XtraDB

          Oracle has InnoDB, but there's an open source transactional engine for MariaDB known as XtraDB; by Percona.
      • Sigh, how blind Open Source fanatics are

        Many years ago, I was complaining about lacking basic features available in most commercial products, like a BASIC GRAMMAR CHECKER.

        It's still missing. That's a decade behind.
  • This is why GPL doesn't work!!

    GPL allows anyone to copy source code and rebrand it as something else. Imagine working hard on coding something for 10 yrs and you're licensing it as GPL and out of nowhere somebody with more marketing $$$ claims your hard work and rebrand it as something else. As per Richard Stallman, this is okay. Oracle should've just forked it so they don't have to pay MySQL for anything. GPL is bad juju and bad for business.

    Example: LibreOffice - OpenOffice, MariaDB - MySQL, Joomla - Mambo, Wordpress - B2Evolution, PrimeFaces - IceFaces, Mandrake - Debian - Redhat and the other 600 forks and many many more.

    There is no originality in the open source world. Many companies who try to play nice have been bankrupt. Good luck playing with open sores.
    • Open Source, if properly controlled, can work for business, sometimes

      First, for a business to create Open Source products, then to openly give away the source code is pretty bad. It's difficult to create a business on the support model, or to hang onto the limited areas of the GPL where you are allowed to keep your code.

      It's a balancing game. You may start with large amounts of source code from the community, but are required to give back. It's only fair.

      For a business attempting to use Open Source products, it's a whole different game. My last experience was a team using all open source tools to create a new product to be implemented overseas (I'm in the United States). This team was totally out of control and used Open Source to avoid any entanglements with our procurement group or management in general. Project was cancelled after they failed to deliver anything for over a year.

      Their tie to Open Source gave it the renegade look and management wasn't into renegades. It more or less soured the whole thing.

      If the project had been properly controlled by the leads, it would have been successful. Unfortunately, the leads hid behind everything they could as it spiralled out of control. Open Source took the hit as much as they did.

      In development, the tool is of little importanct, so long as it is appropriate for the job. Open Source or commercial makes little difference.

      It's all about how it's managed, not the tool
    • GPL is meant to protect authors and software from corporations like Oracle

      The reason companies like Oracle would have to "buy" GPL'ed software projects is because of the GPL itself: The GPL only allows verbatim copying of code given that the derivative work itself is made available under the GPL, thus protecting the original author.

      In commercial cases, companies like Oracle might have the core of a project housed under the GPL, but then dual-license it under a less restrictive license (for corporations) for a fee, including extra software and services.
  • Looking to move to MariaDB from MySQL

    Not going to wait for surprises from Oracle. Looking to port to MariaDB or PostgreSQL or perhaps Firebird.