MySQL reacts to Oracle's Innobase buy

Innobase's database engine is often used with MySQL, which means MySQL is also having to look at alternatives

Six weeks after Oracle bought Finnish software developer Innobase, MySQL is working to provide its customers with an alternative to the open-source InnoDB database engine often used at the heart of its product, a MySQL executive says.

Database industry watchers have speculated on the impact of Oracle’s Innobase buy on MySQL’s open-source database. However, MySQL is manoeuvring for a replacement option.

“Because Oracle made that acquisition we are evaluating options to replace that functionality in some way,” says Richard Mason, MySQL’s Europe, Middle East and Africa vice president.

“We’re not at the point yet where we can go public with what that plan is but we will be shortly.”

Innobase developed InnoDB, the most popular storage engine used with MySQL. InnoDB is regarded as one of the best for online transactional processing applications

Oracle said when it announced the Innobase deal that it would continue to develop the InnoDB technology. The database engine is currently bundled with MySQL under a contractual agreement with Innobase that will come up for renewal next year.

Mason was one of several officials from MySQL who hosted the company’s first northern European customer conference in London earlier this month. The first question asked of MySQL co-founder David Axmark was how the Oracle deal would affect MySQL’s database software.

Axmark said the storage engine is “pluggable”, meaning other storage engines can be substituted instead. He said the code for InnoDB is under the GPL (General Public Licence), so “the code is always out there. It will always be out there”.

Still, MySQL is apparently sufficiently concerned about Oracle’s move to prepare a suitable alternative for customers. Possibilities include developing a new version of InnoDB, based on the current open source code, or working to improve one of the alternative open source database engines.

Why Oracle bought Innobase and its architecture is not entirely clear, says David Cartwright, a database specialist and managing director of consultancy firm Korana Technology. If Oracle is going to allow MySQL to use the database engine’s code then it’s no big deal, he says.

Even if the agreement was not renewed the current code could still be used, Cartwright says. However, if Oracle holds patents or licences for the underlying technology, such as algorithms or file structures, “then that could get quite interesting”.

It would mean MySQL may have to come up with a different architecture, Cartwright says. However, it could take away programming efforts from other features.

Nonetheless, MySQL officials say there have been more than a million downloads of the software since it has been released. The company has signed global distribution agreements with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Novell, and licensed them to redistribute MySQL Network, the company’s support services for the free database, Mason says. It’s an annual charge per server, he says.

HP and Novell have MySQL on their price list and can direct to their customers or through their channels, Mason says. Those contracts are now being localised for different countries, he says.

The deals increase the distribution network of MySQL and make CIOs see the software “as acceptable and part of the enterprise landscape”, Mason says.

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