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MySQL exec: Open source to be New Year's resolution for many

It was a year of milestones for the open source database MySQL. Version 4.1 was certainly a highpoint for the company, and recent studies that claimed 42% of companies were running open source software in their production databases only added more logs to an already brightly burning fire.

All holiday analogies aside, 2004 was a strong year for all things open source, especially if you happened to be in the open source database arena.

Zack Urlocker, vice president of marketing at MySQL AB, recently talked about what MySQL accomplished in 2004, its plans for 2005 and why he believes companies will choose open source as their New Year's resolution.

MySQL could list several milestones for 2004. Could you pick a few that had the greatest impact on your company and its customers?
No. 1 was when we shipped MySQL 4.1, which has continued to be tremendously popular -- we still get 35,000 to 50,000 downloads every day. That number has increased every day since the version became available, probably because it includes a lot of features like prepared statements user queries that people were very interested in. We also released some new graphical tools … those are important because they allow us to reach a more mainstream audience that isn't going to use command line tools -- like Linux expert tools -- these are more mainstream graphical tools. We are also experiencing huge success with third-party vendors with those tools; companies like Quest Software are supporting MySQL. [And also saw] more third-party support. What attracted these third-party supporters to MySQL?
The biggest draw for third-party vendors was that customers were asking for MySQL; it's growing to become the most important open source database, as well as the fastest growing database. A lot of corporate customers are saying it's time to look at open source technology. They have seen the success of Linux and now they are saying 'let's use more open source in the application stack.' Some of our customers like Saber, Sony and T-Mobile are using it and it has now become safer. For us, we see open source moving into mainstream in the year 2004 and starting have lot of growth.
Certainly, the extent of the adoption of open source technology could be attributed to all the complexity that IT vendors have thrust upon their customers over the last 10 years.
Zack Urlocker
Vice president of marketingMySQL
Why do you believe that MySQL's success in 2004 is one of the biggest IT news items of the year?
I think primarily it was the cost savings people are getting. Customers like Saber are saving $10 million, and it is very hard to argue with those results. Certainly, the extent of the adoption of open source technology could be attributed to all the complexity that IT vendors have thrust upon their customers over the last 10 years. With a lot of the shelfware, a lot of people were paying a lot for it but were not getting the benefits. Now open source comes along and allows the buyer to be back in control of the situation -- it's now about performance and reliability and not just about jamming more features into applications each year to justify an upgrade. Customers have been forced to do more with less and less and also it's a little bit of the David and Goliath story that the press likes so much. Computer Associates recently spoke with SearchEnterpriseLinux and said it considered MySQL to have had amazing success, but it doesn't consider you a competitor because you have not reached mission critical applications yet. Is that an accurate description?
We certainly have customers who are running mission critical applications. I think it is fair to say MySQL has historically not have had all the enterprise features, but we have made it clear that MySQL 5.0 is going to be an important release for us, with features like triggers and views that are available in alpha, then the beta and finally in January for that important release date for us. Customers considering Linux or open source products often cite complexity or ease of use as a major deterrent to migrating from their proprietary software. Are these concerns that will carry into 2005?
With our new line of graphical tools, we will seek to continue to expand the open source market. MySQL Trainer and query browser are two of the new products that work together for Windows and Linux. [They] basically give someone new to MySQL a new and easy way to manage and interact with queries, add users, tables and backup all of the things a [database administrator] needs to do on a routine basis in an easy and interactive format. The idea of graphical tools is that it is now much easier to obtain MySQL and get started -- anything you can do in the command line, you can now do graphically and shorten the learning curve. What else do you see as some of the challenges for 2005?
The big challenge is going to be the release of MySQL 5.0. Also, the database industry is going to continue to be commoditized and we see evidence of that … Oracle's acquisition of PeopleSoft -- that's kind of acknowledging that a company like Oracle is moving up the stack and is expecting to focus a lot of their effort [on applications]. This is a great thing that they've done and we hope that PeopleSoft supports MySQL. Is there anything else on your mind, as 2004 comes to a close, that pertains to open source?
Speaking of milestones, I have one more interesting comment on open source in general. One milestone for open source was HP really stepping up and making a commitment to open source technology and supporting the whole stack. So with Linux, Apache and PHP offering support to players like MySQL and JBoss, we can see that it is something a lot of large corporations and big IT vendors are doing. We now have a lot of big players to support it.
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