Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Choosing wisely

The upshot of last week's database news is: You have to make prudent choices when selecting the software you use. No one knows what MySQL, Sybase, Informix, Greenplum, Kickfire, or EnterpriseDB, to name a few, are going to do next week. If you have bet your business on selling a proprietary software application that links against MySQL, you may be in trouble soon. Just like MySQL has been more or less in at least serious threat of trouble for some years now by selling a proprietary version of their software that links against someone else's proprietary version of their software (InnoDB). Or, to leave the database realm for one sentence, by building their development process on a proprietary version-control system.

The question isn't so much whether Oracle will kill MySQL or MySQL will kill itself. Database deployments are very slow to go away, and MySQL's adoption is massive. The question is what will happen to the investment you have made when you chose MySQL. Switching to a different SQL DBMS is extremely painful. Drizzle may now have a BSD-licensed client library, but it isn't going to be a replacement for MySQL, unless you targeted your application for MySQL 3.23. (And Drizzle development, for what it's worth, is hosted on a proprietary hosting platform.) The other forks of MySQL aren't going to help you because they can't sell you license and they are not even allowed to provide you with an updated MySQL documentation.

Of course I will argue that PostgreSQL is somehow positioned more appropriately here, with the BSD license and the way the community works. But this episode shows that open-source software isn't just about free downloads or a fun community experience; it is about protecting your investments, your IT strategy, and ultimately your business.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oracle, Sun, MySQL

So Oracle is to buy Sun now. Well, that makes sense. I guess I jumped ship just in time then. People started congratulating me yesterday that I avoided being an Oracle employee. :-) Although I was de facto a MySQL employee for a while; not sure which is worse.

John Dvorak, possibly of of the most tracked-back men these days, apparently knew all along that the acquisition of MySQL by Sun was just a proxy deal for Oracle. Now with IBM nearly snatching up Sun, I guess Oracle had to react.

The question inevitably arose, what will this mean for PostgreSQL. Probably not much. For one thing, you'd be overestimating the impact that Sun has on anything these days. ;-) The acquisition of MySQL by Sun eventually led to the (very small) PostgreSQL business at Sun being phased out, and it is possible that whatever is left will now fade away even more. But it really hasn't impacted the PostgreSQL community much, and won't do so now.

On the contrary, open-source databases, both MySQL and PostgreSQL, have always (at least since they became credible) been considered the anti-Oracle proposition. Now with MySQL actually owned by Oracle, this makes PostgreSQL the primary alternative. Considering the sometimes irrational but not insignificant ill-will that the Sun acquisition has spread among open-source database enthusiasts, it is easy to imagine how even worse this will impact MySQL's reputation on perception alone.

One might of course also think that Oracle now has a devilish plan to corner the database market from both sides. But it would be too presumptuous to assume that Oracle spends $7 billion on an anti-PostgreSQL plan. In some way, this basically only continues the path that Oracle started on when it bought Sleepycat and InnoDB a few years ago, and the impact of that on the open-source database field was pretty minimal.

I don't expect that MySQL will be "killed" either. It is too valuable as a "foot in the door" in any case. Moreover, much of the MySQL momentum already lies outside of Sun anyway, in the hands of Percona, Open Query, the Monty Program, Drizzle, and others, so killing MySQL is already impossible for a single company. Which is probably a good situation for the extended open-source database community.

What about the rest of Sun? I assume Oracle will be quite interested in Solaris and Java, of course, also Open Storage, Glassfish, and some of the other pieces of middleware that no one outside Sun really knows (yay, Sun marketing). Some of these pieces nicely fill the gaps in Oracle's offerings, reduce the interdependencies of Oracle with IBM and/or solidify the already existing relationships with Sun. The cloud computing initiatives might also be of interest, as Oracle has on occasion tried to become an Internet-enabled company no matter how silly the approach (remember the Network Computer or Oracle 8i/9i?). And as many have commented, keeping around just to annoy Microsoft is probably going to be worthwhile even if it doesn't make any money. I won't be surprised, however, if the hardware business, meaning SPARC on the one side, and StorageTek on the other, will be sold to someone else.

What I will be interested in seeing is whether Oracle can do a better job exploiting the vertical integration story that Sun has been been pushing for basically two decades but has repeatedly failed to deliver on. (Like MySQL not building on SPARC (at some point), and JavaFX not being available for OpenSolaris.)

I do feel sorry for the people at MySQL, who will have to readjust to a new employer and probably a new strategy and a few more sets of reorgs for the second time in less than two years. And all this a day before the MySQL Conference, which will now probably be completely distracted by this news. Add the conspicuous absence of any mention of MySQL in the official announcements, and the uncertainty couldn't be greater.

Friday, April 17, 2009

PostgreSQL videos on Vimeo

There has been the occasional talk of PostgreSQL video content lately, and many will probably have found this already, but for those who haven't, check out the PostgreSQL channel on Vimeo, or subscribe to the RSS feed for a regular delivery of educational PostgreSQL presentations on video. Great work, keep it up.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Web browsers vs. debtags

So I wanted to see what web browsers are available in Debian. The first stop was Going to the page of one browser package and clicking on "Browser" in the tags area only gives you the explanation of the tag, but not the list of other packages with that tag. Is that available somewhere?

So next try maybe grep-dctrl ... oh, grep-debtags appears to be the ticket.

$ grep-debtags -n -sPackage web::browser

How many of those are actually web browsers? Probably about half of them. (Example: caudium (not listed) is a web server, caudium-dev is its development package, not very close to a web browser.)

This would actually be quite a useful interface if the tags had any relationship to reality. I was in fact looking for a lightweight graphical browser, so this is a plausible command:

$ grep-debtags -n -d -sPackage web::browser -a interface::x11 -a -! suite::gnome -a -! suite::kde

which gives me 15 hits, of which 8 or 9 are actual web browsers.

Well, my search for a lightweight browser stopped here:

lightweight web browser based on Mozilla

Yeah! ;-)