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MySQL users hope for the best, prep for the worst

After Oracle's acquisition of Sun and its popular open source database franchise, MySQL users hope for the best but are ready to flee.

The Oracle-Sun deal is done, and Oracle re-stressed its promises to keep MySQL alive and well, but MySQL users are prepared to move quickly should Oracle mistreat the open source database.

On community IT forums such as Reddit, MySQL users are on the lookout for signs of change that might signal the end, and many users are also doing their homework on alternative databases such as PostgreSQL in preparation for the worst case.

MySQL co-founder Monty Widenius, who led a crusade against the acquisition, said he remains very concerned that Oracle will slowly turn MySQL into a closed source, paid product.

"There is no reason for Oracle to do charity; they don't respect open source, because it won't make them money," said Widenius, who worked with the European Commission (EC) to try to block the acquisition deal.

Oracle insists it will enhance MySQL and make subsequent versions of the database, including Version 6, available under the GPL. The company also said in a statement it would not release any enhanced version of MySQL Enterprise Edition without also releasing a similar version of MySQL Community Edition licensed under the GPL, and the company promised to make source code of MySQL Community Editions publicly available for free.

And at least some MySQL devotees take the company at its word. Some say it is not in Oracle's best interest for it to damage a valuable franchise that could also act as a feeder database to Oracle's commercial offering.

Sheeri K. Cabral, a MySQL Team Lead with Boston-based database services provider Pythian Group and a MySQL's Community Advocate said she doesn't think the acquisition will be disruptive.

"Nobody really knows what will happen; we are all guessing, but it would be a huge surprise if Oracle shuts down MySQL," she said. "But, it would also be a huge surprise if they make any major development efforts."

Widenius said Oracle will have a tough time keeping to its promise of enhancing MySQL because "the most competent MySQL people from Sun are now gone."

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To add insult to injury, long time Oracle executive Ken Jacobs reportedly resigned after being turned down for the job of overseeing MySQL.

Jacobs oversaw InnoDB after Oracle bought that open source database five years ago. "He was the one person at Oracle who was really interested in MySQL, and he resigned." Widenius said.

With so much doubt about Oracle's true intentions, MySQL users are evaluating other open source database options and preparing to make a move if necessary.

MySQL user Colin Dean, a developer and co-founder of a personal profile directory start up site,, isn't waiting to get burned; he's making sure he'll be able to move quickly if necessary.

He will stay with MySQL until Oracle changes something that directly affects him. But "it's a good idea for any developer to ensure a healthy amount of abstraction above a database layer, in case the need arises to change database back-ends," he said.

Widenius agreed that it is wise to "at least look at the MySQL forks and experiment with the options."

Widenius' development company, Monty Program AB, is behind a MySQL drop-in replacement, MariaDB. (He made no mention of MariaDB during this interview). Other forks include Drizzle, OurDelta and Percona's Xtra DB.

That said, migrating to another database can be expensive and time consuming, so the decision to move should not be impulsive, Cabral said.

"People are saying they will switch to another DB, but it is the same thing as someone who doesn't like the president saying they are moving to Canada. Who actually does it?" said Cabral, who organizes the Boston MySQL User Group. "It's like Chicken Little yelling, the sky is falling. People are reacting based on their fears, even though nothing major is happening."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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