Sun/Oracle – MySQL/Express

OK, it’s time to chip in my 2c on the Oracle/Sun takeover. There’s been much written and said since Monday’s announcement, much of it in the nature of ‘what will they do with this’ or ‘will they kill it/spin it off/develop it’. So I thought I’d contribute my thoughts, which are of a ‘wouldn’t it be great’ nature.

And the big idea is? Open Source Express Server and integrate it into MySQL. Before you all switch off thinking this is crazy, let’s look at what I mean more closely.

It’s clear from much commentary, both from industry analysts (who are no better than glorified newspaper journalists in most cases), and also from those close to MySQL development, that MySQL has had a troubled time since it was bought by Sun. Key developers have left, and the project has forked. This is not good. Fear about the future could only increase now Oracle own this important asset.

What better way to win quick recognition from the MySQL developer community than by adding a rich MOLAP engine into the core server. Functionality that would allow MySQL to immediately leapfrog it’s Open Source competition of Postgres & Ingres. Given the long heritage and years of development behind Express Server it is clear that it would take a significant length of time for any Open Source competitor to offer similar functionality, and frankly it would probably be beyond them in the short term. Here are just some advantages :

  1. Competitive advantage over other Open Source SQL alternatives

  2. A low cost/no cost competitor to MS SQL Server + Analysis Server in some markets

  3. A relatively easy migration path from MySQL-Express to Oracle11g+OLAP Option

  4. Recognition and kudos from the MySQL developer community

I’ve already discussed points 1 & 4. How about 2 & 3. How attractive would the product stack of OpenSolaris or Oracle Enterprise Linux + MySQL + embedded Express all free be vs. the stack of MS Windows Server 2003 (with per user licensing) + SQL Server 2008 incl. Analysis Services? Admittedly this won’t appeal to everyone, but it looks like a winning combination to me.

Which brings me on to point 3. At the engine level Analytic Workspaces in Oracle 11g remain backwardly compatible with older Express databases. OK you need to do some work to expose your data through the 11g meta-data, but the initial population of data is relatively straight forward. Thus there is an implicit upgrade path from a MySQL-Express combination to Oracle 11g(12g etc….) if required.

Some commentators have pointed out the risk of MySQL cannibalising the mainstream Oracle market, however most accept that MySQL is dominant in the web sphere where Oracle dominates in the enterprise market. My suggestion does move MySQL closer to the enterprise market as that is historically where most OLAP/BI usage occurs. However I would refer back to point 2; if a business is looking at the MySQL end of the market, it is likely they cannot afford Oracle licensing, in which case would you rather they implemented MS SQL Server and Analysis Services or MySQL-Express? With the upgrade path discussed in point 3, you have additional leverage if an organisation grows to a point where it needs to upgrade to a larger enterprise database. In the film ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ the charismatic character Jean Brodie, a teacher, makes the statement “Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life!”. Oracle have not been able to compete effectively at the SME end of the market despite various Partner efforts to do so. Now they have MySQL they could; add in OLAP support and you could have a killer combination in the SME enterprise market – they could be ‘yours for life’. All this without cannibalising existing markets.

The downsides? The main one that occurs to me is the cannibalising of existing markets, however I think I have dealt with that above. If anyone can think of other please comment and we’ll see if there are answers.

And so the big question is, what do I mean by integrate Express Server into MySQL? Really I am not thinking anything too complicated – just do the minimum software engineering to get the Express engine embedded and working. If you release the code under the GPL, you can let the MySQL community do the rest, it’s just a Darwinistic ‘let the market decide’ approach. If it’s a good idea and the basic engine works, the larger community will work out problems such as

  • the best ways to tightly integrate it to the relational engine
  • access method to MOLAP data, APIs etc.
  • database development tools

The beauty of the Open Source approach is the rich seam of ideas that can be tapped into. Who knows, we could see Web2 interfaces to MOLAP data, e.g. AJAX applications.

And finally Oracle, while you’re at it, why not Open Source and release the code for OFA & OSA – then you’ve got two custom made application ready to go with your newly released free OLAP engine combined with MySQL. What’s the harm? It’s not likely to cannibalise your existing market; long time and former users are hardly likely to flood back. But you could bring a whole new generation of SMEs to the Oracle family with robust, proven, powerful and relatively easy to implement BI applications. If a potential customer is looking at the low cost end of the market they are hardly likely to be looking at Essbase/Hyperion. Microsoft have tried to enter the financial planning market with a product based on SQL Server, but have abandoned it due to development complexity. OFA is proven to work, why waste it? Release it as a free product with MySQL-Express and you have a product that MS can never compete with, you could have the market sewn up – one in the eye for MS. Similarly for OSA – there’s nothing else out there quite like it whether your’e a medium sized web retailer or a multi-national FMCG company. If you’re a SME retail/manufacturing company needing sales & marketing analysis this could be an easy way to get top class analytics without paying through the nose. Where else will they go? MS? Is that what you want?

So Larry – are you up for the challenge? what’s stopping you? Your President Charles Phillips and chief corporate architect Edward Screven declared the other day that they won’t be killing MySQL – why not go further, be really bold – restore it to it’s position as the premier Open Source relational database by giving it OLAP functionality and releasing ready-to-go BI apps with it. You could grasp the opportunity to finally make OLAP technology affordable to every business, large or small. It’s a big prize – go for it.

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One Comment on “Sun/Oracle – MySQL/Express”

  1. Ade Says:

    Robert

    This would be absolutely huge if they could do this, particularly now Microsoft has decided to give up the fight in the SME space by ceasing development of their Planning functionality in their performancepoint offering…
    Like you said, SME’s cant afford the OLAP option in the fullblown Oracle Relational DB, so many SME’s who could be taking advantage of some wonderful functionality in Express Sever, if incorporated into MySQL…Oracle could recoup by charging licensing fees for any commercial use of the open source OFA/OSA apps…Will Oracle be brave !!!!! I really hope so…but my gut feeling is that they would be scared of cannibalization of the Oracle/Hyperion EPM stack

    By the way, this blog is fantastic, thank you for all your postings


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