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MySQL's Marten Mickos on GPLv3 and automated enterprise monitoring

MySQL CEO Marten Mickos wants the everyday DBA to become more powerful. In this interview, he tells about automated monitoring technology in the new MySQL Enterprise that does just that.

MySQL AB, developer of the MySQL open source database, has announced its release of MySQL Enterprise. This new version of its flagship commercial subscription service includes automated monitoring technology to help database administrators monitor and tune their production MySQL database systems.

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The announcement from MySQL corresponds with research released by analyst firm Forrester Research Inc. that shows automation of database administration functions can help reduce complexity, minimize human errors, improve overall productivity and lower costs.

MySQL CEO Marten Mickos sat down with to discuss his company's latest foray into automated database monitoring. Along the way, we corner his thoughts on the ever-present negotiations surrounding the GPLv3 and what it takes to keep the open source community interested in his open source database. Is the crux of MySQL Enterprise that it's an automated monitoring service meant to free up database administrators' time for other goals?

Marten Mickos: It's a monitoring service and it gives troubleshooting advice but doesn't make change without consent. With this new tool, DBAs will be told if they are missing a password here, for example, and give advice as to how to fix it, but the DBA is still fully in charge of the database. We do want to provide suggestions and then leave it up to the DBA to decide what to do.

Is there some kind of upgrade schedule for these automated fixes and advice?

Mickos: There is a regular upgrade schedule, where MySQL will add new rules and refine existing rules, and the software will constantly ping us at MySQL AB for any new downloads.

What was your goal with MySQL Enterprise?

Mickos: The goal was to make the DBA more powerful. If I am a company that has no dedicated DBA, then I'll be thankful that I'm getting the expert advice I need to manage the database. And as a DBA, I'll be happy that I am getting even more support.

How was this issue resolved before? What was the process?

Mickos: Previously the process was all based upon the database administrator having both the knowledge and the time to look for problems. Now he will get those alerts from the system automatically.

Is Enterprise aimed primarily at existing customers, or can we expect MySQL to begin driving for new ones? Where will Enterprise find new customers?

Mickos: It's both, but we definitely designed it with our large-scale customers in mind. We went out to them and asked what they needed in terms of 50 or several hundred servers. It's also very useful for one server and someone with few DBA skills.

The migration scene: Are you seeing an increase in migrations from big databases to MySQL since the release of MySQL 5.0?

Mickos: We have seen very strong growth in the enterprise segment. Large and small enterprises are using much more MySQL than they were before, but it's not all migrations. We have seen some shops that just abandon the old program and use the new.

What is MySQL doing to keep its edge over PostgreSQL and other open source databases, especially when some DBAs see those alternatives as superior?

Mickos: I think the two have different inclinations and different ambitions. With MySQL, we are trying to skate where the puck is going to be. We do development and features and functionality that the modern day user will need -- things like management, monitoring and scaling. My impression of PostgreSQL is that it is trying to challenge the features that Oracle has put out there. In a way they are addressing the Old World. We also differ from other open source databases like Ingres because Ingres is designed for the client/server world. PostgreSQL is a great product, but I think it targets a different audience.

How does MySQL keep its developers contributing to the community? Why should they remain today?

Mickos: We try to be very open to input and to listen carefully. We haven't always been good at it, but I think we have done a good job at looking at what the community has contributed. We have built a new method to interact with us, called MySQL Forge, where it is easy to contribute code, discuss contributions and to observe what other developers have produced.

We also have a new contributor program, where we are bringing in developers from all over the world to produce code, add onto the code and conduct bug fixes. I think that the key to having a vibrant community is to be very open to them and appreciate their input. You have to realize that it's not a matter of whether people hate you or love you, because even if they hate your work, they are really providing very good input. If somebody says 'MySQL sucks,' we'll say let's fix that.

You have been quoted saying that you believe the GPLv3 process will end on a positive note. Why should users believe that given some of the negative press the process has received?

Mickos: Like I stated then, the process is a work in progress, and now is not the time to go one way or the other. It is clear, however, that the GPLv3 has improvements in it that will be good for everybody. At the same time, it is vital to have an ongoing discussion with the maintainers of the Linux kernel, like Linux Torvalds, so it will end up being a license of both great importance and accessibility for open source products. There's a good chance that will happen, but it won't happen by itself. Of course one of the challenges of GPLv3 will be how it will grow past the popularity of GPLv2, and how to create something better.

So what are some ways GPLv3 will grow past the popularity of version 2.0?

Mickos: For one thing, it is more internationally capable. They are working on a design that fits in with local legislators other than those in the U.S. It also has good language around its patents.

Could you break down which users' shops are MySQL+Oracle, MySQL+Microsoft SQL Server and solely MySQL?

Mickos: I do know that big corporations always have existing databases as their standard. They are always Oracle shops or Microsoft shops or IBM shops. We are always dealing with large enterprises that are one of those big three. As for purely MySQL shops, those are the Web-based properties. They are typically smaller enterprise shops.

Lastly, do you have pricing and availability for MySQL Enterprise?

Mickos: MySQL Enterprise is available now for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Microsoft Windows, Sun Solaris, Macintosh OS X and HP-UX. It is priced on an annual subscription model ranging from $595 to $4,995 per database server. Existing customers can subscribe now to receive MySQL Enterprise Server software and technical support.

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