Following the launch of the Open Database Alliance a number of interesting reports were published that examined its role in establishing MariaDB as an alternative development branch for MySQL and as a vendor-neutral open source database collective.
I had a few questions myself, which Monty Widenius and Peter Zaitsev, CEO of Percona, were good enough to answer for me via email. They also agreed for the exchange to be published here. This is what they had to say:
Q: Monty has stated that the intention is to open up the Alliance to include other open source database projects – any indication of how this would be done given the diverse requirements and different development directions of Maria, PostgreSQL etc?
PZ: I think it is great because the direction for each Open Source databases is different — one size does not fits all – there are cases where MySQL, PostgreSQL or SQLite excel. The vision for the Alliance is to have healthy competition which in the end drives the best solution for the customer. Even in the MySQL landscape there is an overlap – Innodb, XtraDB, Maria, PBXT, Falcon — and each desires to be the leading transactional storage engine. This does not stop most of them from sharing ideas between each other and acknowledging each other’s advantages and drawbacks.
MW: As the Open Database Alliance is business alliance, not a development alliance, there shouldn’t be many conflicts. There is a lot of companies already that give support for both PostgreSQL and MySQL and there is no reason this should change. As Peter pointed out, different databases have different optimal usage cases and one should always choose the best tool for the job. I also envision that the Open Database Alliance will contain developer companies, like Monty Program Ab and PostgreSQL Experts Inc, but these should be able to co-exist inside the Alliance as it’s greatly benefiting the Alliance members to have them there.
Q. What chance is there for vendors of closed source MySQL storage engines to become part of the open database alliance?
PZ: I think there is significant uncertainty about this one. It is unclear if MariaDB will be able to exist in close source version (via licensing fees to Sun/MySQL) or not. It is also not quite clear how GPL will work in this case – In theory with an open interface and plugin infrastructure it may be possible to distribute commercial storage engines (separately from MariaDB) and let users use them with GPL servers same as commercial drivers are used with a Linux Kernel.
MW: This can only be done by buying MySQL licenses from Sun for each copy of MariaDB that is distributed.
Q. Assuming Oracle maintains the development of MySQL (as it has InnoDB) would Oracle’s membership of the Open Database Alliance be necessary for it to fulfill its goal to “unify all MySQL-related development and services”? Will Oracle be offered membership?
PZ: The membership is open to all entities sharing the vision and the goals. When Oracle will be willing to participate is a good question.
MW: Anyone can join if they are prepared to follow the rules of the Alliance. As one of the goals of the Alliance is to promote MariaDB as the community developed version of MySQL, I don’t know if Oracle would want to join. I have, however, offered Oracle a partnership with Monty Program Ab, under which Oracle could get access to some of the critical developer resources Monty Program Ab has available. Monty Program Ab could also help Oracle with their open source strategy and serve as a ‘trust creating’ entity between Oracle and the open source developer community. Oracle has however not yet responded to this.
Q: Can you provide any insight in to the process for creating a formal structure or governance model for the alliance?
PZ: This is under much discussion. It is difficult to speculate until it is ready.
MW: The idea is to initially invite a small group of steering members to the Alliance and together work out rules that we think will make most sense to us and to the Alliance’s future members. This is work in progress.
Q: Will MariaDB attempt stay in lock step with future MySQL updates and developments, or is MariaDB taking a separate development path? (Only directed at MW)
MW: Yes, it will be in sync with all changes in the main MySQL code. MariaDB is what I classify as a branch, not a fork. The difference is that with a branch you keep yourself updated with all changes from the original code while with a fork you forget where you came from and don’t take any updates from it.
Q: Have you considered the options for creating a foundation for the the development of MariaDB. Any thoughts on benefits/risks? (Only directed at MW)
MW: Monty Program Ab is, in effect, a foundation. See the hacking business model. In other words, Monty Program Ab is a company that is owned and steered by its employees and all money we generate is used to pay salaries and the occasional bonus for good work. I think this setup as a foundation works because it is easier to generate money from customers to fund the development work. We can also afford to hire the best people to work on the code and don’t have to rely only on people that are prepared to work for free or almost no pay.