MariaDB Can’t Be Sold Like MySQL: Exclusive Interview


The recent spat between Oracle and the Hudson project, resulted in the fork of the project. It made us think what the future holds for MySQL which seems to be the only FOSS project left to be hit by Oracle. The sword may come down anytime. So, we set out to see how well MariaDB is doing, a database created by no one else but the creator of MySQL.

MariaDB is backed by the company Monty Program Ab founded by the creator of MySQL. Here is an exclusive interview with Colin Charles, Chief Evangelist, MariaDB, Monty Program Ab & Rasmus Johansson, COO, Monty Program Ab.

Swapnil: What future do you see for MySQL when Oracle is severing ties with communities shutting down the community versions of popular Open Source software? OpenSolaris is gone, OpenOffice is being forked, Community Java is gone, Hudson is gone. MySQL seems to be the only major project still untouched, when do you see Oracle starting to take control over MySQL as they have done with other projects?
Monty Program Ab: Oracle has already taken control of MySQL. The moment the purchase of Sun Microsystems was complete, Oracle owned all of Sun’s assets. Oracle’s aim is to make money, and profitability from opensource endeavors is key for them. Closure of OpenSolaris for example could be pointed to the fact that it was not as widely used. OpenOffice is being forked because there are different directions (and there always was a fork). MySQL is going strong at Oracle, and they have had a recent release of MySQL 5.5 with more improvements. Do we know if they’re going to close source it or further sever ties with the community? No. But we have our suspicions.

Swapnil: Sun/Novell are good examples of why Free Software projects should be run under independent foundations so as to ensure sustainability. What is your opinion on this subject?
Monty Program Ab: We fully agree with this. Opensource needs corporate backers, but if an open source project really only has one backer, it should set off alarm bells, as we’ve seen in the last decade. This is why we’re doing things “correct” this time and fixing this with MariaDB — there is no one company behind the project, even though Monty Program is a pretty large contributor.

Swapnil: What alternatives are there for MySQL users who are worried about the future of MySQL under Oracle? Do you have any data on increase/decline in MySQL userbase?
Monty Program Ab: The alternative for MySQL users is MariaDB. It is community developed, feature enhanced and backward compatible with MySQL. We’ve seen increased download numbers for MariaDB, and we cannot state if there has been an increase or a decline in MySQL downloads because these numbers are kept close to the chest by Oracle.
Swapnil: What is MariaDB? Is is a purely community driven project or a company backed one?
Monty Program Ab: MariaDB is a community developed, feature enhanced and backward compatible database. It is purely community driven, and anyone can become a Maria Captain (i.e. gain commit rights into the tree). It is backed largely by Monty Program Ab, but there are many other companies who spend time and resources into making MariaDB better. This list is not limited to: SkySQL, Percona, Open Query, and more.

Swapnil: What role does Monty program plays in the development of MariaDB?
Monty Program Ab: Currently Monty Program has about 20 employees with their sole task to work on MariaDB. Monty Program spends time from developing the website, the knowledgebase, evangelising MariaDB, to releasing the software, building it, spending lots of time coding it, merging it, and more.

Swapnil: Does MariaDB run the similar risk of being sold to any corporates the way MySQL was sold to Sun? Is there any such concern? In other words how different/secure is MardiaDB from MySQL when it comes to addressing the fear of being acquired by Oracle or any other company?
Monty Program Ab: Monty Program Ab might be sold but MariaDB will never be ‘sold’. It can’t. There’s a trademark policy in place to ensure that MariaDB remains forever. It should also be noticed that Monty Program Ab is an employee owned company.

Swapnil: Are you working with MySQL developers?
Monty Program Ab: Yes. We regularly send back patches to the internals list, and it makes it back into the MySQL tree after Oracle accepts it.

Swapnil: Post OpenOffice Fork, Apache exit from Java committee do you see any trend of MySQL developers exiting MySQL and joining MariaDB?
Monty Program Ab: Well a lot of MySQL developers were employed by MySQL AB (which became Sun then Oracle). A lot of core developers have left. Some are at Monty Program. Some are running their own consulting firms. Some are working on other databases. Some have gone fishing.

Swapnil: How do you compare MariaDB with Drizzle, Postgres SQL and Ingres?
Monty Program Ab: Drizzle is a micro-kernel fork of MySQL 6, and is very different from MySQL/MariaDB today. PostgreSQL is another opensource RDBMS but comes nowhere in popularity to MySQL usage. It is however very strong in the GIS area, and MariaDB aims to also compete with it in the GIS-space. We do not have specific comments on Ingres.

Swapnil: What is the userbase of MariaDB? Could you name any major sites running MariaDB? Could you name major migrations from MySQL to MariaDB?
Monty Program Ab: It gets five-figure downloads monthly. Major sites running it include, SpamExperts, many web hosting companies, and so on. More are migrating, and watch out for more case studies about this

MySQL -> MariaDB: SpamExperts did 300 machines.

Swapnil: What is your strategy to educate users about MariaDB? Are you running any programs or partnering with companies to increase MariaDB adoption?
Monty Program Ab: We have a community manager and a chief evangelist who spread the word both offline and online. We participate in many conferences & events. We talk to many opensource projects. The education work is never complete. We are running a community ambassador program to help empower people evangelise MariaDB.

Swapnil: What if someone wants to migrate from MySQL to MariaDB, what are the risks and advantages?
Monty Program Ab: There are no risks (of course, test it first!). The advantages are quite simply you get a more featured version of the database, better support, and you ensure you don’t have to pay any license fees, etc.

Swapnil: Despite the heavy risk of Oracle pulling the plug on MySQL, it has huge adoption and community behind it. How can an enterprise be confident about migrating to MariaDB?
Monty Program Ab: MariaDB has many core MySQL developers working on it. If they pull the plug, MariaDB will continue on and it might be the best thing that happens to the MariaDB project 😉 We’ll get more users instantly!

Swapnil: How many developers are working on MariaDB and how do you plan to engage more developers? @ What if a developer want to join MariaDB, are there any guidelines?
Monty Program Ab: There are over 40 developers working on MariaDB. Engines like PBXT, Spider, Sphinx, and more are done externally. We engage more developers by improving documentation (available in the knowledgebase), and also by speaking at
developer conferences.

There are guidelines for becoming a MariaDB committer (known as a Maria Captain). These are on the Knowledgebase.

Swapnil: Are there any career opportunities for developers who want to engage with MariaDB? What are those?
Monty Program Ab: Yes. Check out the Jobs page.

Swapnil: Why is there Monty Program Ab Contributor Agreement (MCA)? What purpose does it serve?
Monty Program Ab: It serves the purpose that allows us to include the code into the main tree.

Swapnil: What is The Open Database Alliance and who are the partners? What’s the role of the alliance?
Monty Program Ab: The Open Database Alliance is looking for a driving force to get more active.

Swapnil: How does MariaDB manage funds? Are there corporates backing it?
Monty Program Ab: Monty Program Ab backs a lot of it. MariaDB is not yet setup to take funds, but there are plans to do so in a near future.