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Posted Oct 18, 2010

SkySQL Takes Aim at Delivering MySQL

By Sean Michael Kerner

Former Oracle and Sun execs start up new venture aimed at filling perceived gaps in the open source database support system - but is it an attack on Oracle?

The market for MySQL open source database support is getting more competitive thanks to the entry of SkySQL. The new startup is staffed with a number of former MySQL executives in a bid to provide an alternative to software giant Oracle, which now owns and leads the MySQL database project.

SkySQL is providing services and support around MySQL and the derivative MariaDB database led by MySQL founder Monty Widenius. SkySQL will not however be building its own version of MySQL in some sort of forked project. Oracle is currently dealing with a fork to its OpenOffice open source software suite.

"We do not right now see a situation where another distribution of MySQL is necessary," Kaj Arno executive vice-president of products at SkySQL told InternetNews.com. "There might be a future point in time where such a distribution might be necessary, but at this point in time there is no such need, so we're looking at those users that have already chosen a MySQL distribution."

Database giant Oracle took over control of MySQL as part of the acquisition of Sun Microsystems earlier this year. Arno had been a veteran of Oracle, Sun and the original MySQL company. Arno said that he had a number of concerns about how Oracle was dealing with MySQL, which is why he is now helping to lead SkySQL.

"I learned that if your address is in Munich and not in Redwood Shores, that makes your voice less heard," Arno said. "I also think that it's very hard to combine Oracle’s focus on business with open source. In open source there is not a straight line with what you do now and what you earn in profits next quarter." Oracle has publicly comitted to strengthening MySQL with a new MySQL 5.5 release and the inclusion of the InnoDB database engine earlier this year.

Though Arno is now helping to lead an Oracle competitor, he stressed that he isn't saying that Oracle is somehow bad because they are focused on profitability. Arno noted that SkySQL is also a for-profit company.

"I do think that in order to be accepted by the open source community you have to behave in a certain manner that is not that easy to do for a company which owns so much proprietary code," Arno said.

With SkySQL, Arno and his colleagues are aiming to have a similar model for service delivery as they had when MySQL itself was just a startup. Arno noted that people were recruited to the original MySQL company based on their contributions and active participation on mailing lists as opposed to their geographical location.

When it comes to actually interacting with MySQL code, that's an area where SkySQL will leave code contributions to others in the MySQL ecosystem. Arno noted that SkySQL is about delivering support and not fixing bugs in the code. He added that the MariaDB, which is based on MySQL, might be a place where bug fixes could occur on top of the MySQL base. Though SkySQL is working MariaDB developers, the goal isn't to get current Oracle MySQL users to migrate to a different open source base.

"If you are a MySQL customer and your bug is fixed in MariaDB, I think it might make sense to move," Arno said. "But we are not religious and it is not our task to migrate people from version A to version B."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.



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