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Exclusive 2005 Interview: MySQL CEO Mårten Mickos Addresses F/OSS Criticism

Mickos Discusses Upcoming MySQL 5.0 Release As Well

[This interview was originally published by Enterprise Open Source Magazine on 22nd October 2005. The interviewer is Mark Hinkle.]

Enterprise Open Source Magazine: 
We understand you're going to be releasing MySQL 5.0 in a few weeks. What are its highlights?

Marten Mickos: This is our most significant release ever because we have added the all-time most-requested features by our users. We now have stored procedures, triggers and views so that users have the option to embed their business logic in the database. We offer two new pluggable storage engines - archive and federated - that expand our capabilities. We also have new versions of our database migration tool, administrator and query browser.

Of course, before we add any new features, we want to make sure that we can add them without sacrificing MySQL's high performance, reliability and ease of use.

EOS: How important has user and community feedback been to you as you continue to develop MySQL?

MM: Hugely important. The mere awareness among our own developers that their work will be up for public scrutiny results in better code. On top of that, we gain significant value from the community through feature suggestions, product feedback, bug reports and bug fixes -- as well as a great deal of general word-of-mouth evangelism.

EOS: You mentioned in a recent release that you were glad to see Oracle embracing Open Source through its InnoBase acquisition. But do you think Oracle will deal with MySQL in what you would consider a fair manner in future discussions regarding InnoBase technology?

MM: On the day of the announcement, I received a phone call from Oracle president Charles Phillips assuring me of their intent to renew the contract. They certainly have the resources to add value to InnoDB.

But even if the contract would not be renewed for some reason, the existing contract gives MySQL broad rights to future releases of InnoDB. The contract also allows us to perpetually service our existing InnoDB customers. Additionally, users can feel secure in the fact that InnoDB is an open source product that is freely available to use and modify under the GPL License.

EOS: For the record, one more time, could you explain why you see your agreement with SCO as a good business decision? Do you think that criticism from certain corners of the Open Source community has any validity?

MM: Our corporate mission is "To make superior database management available and affordable to all." We believe that porting a GPL version of MySQL for the SCO OpenServer platform gives thousands of users more options when it comes to choosing a database -- which is a good thing. The deal produces revenue for us and this allows us to hire more open
source developers.

We didn't make the decision lightly; we knew SCO was a sensitive subject with the free software and open source communities. Our conclusion was that this does not violate the spirit of FOSS which has a strong principle of non-discrimination. Many other open and close source companies have also ported their products to SCO's platforms.

EOS: Regardless of questions like the previous one that may be of more interest to us media types than to your users, what do you see as your major competitive challenges over the next year? For example, EnterpriseDB was recently launched with the express purpose of competing against MySQL (even though the company says it is also targeting Oracle). Do you see a threat from new open-source database companies such as this?

MM: We believe that we have chosen a strategy which is unique in the entire space of database management systems. Whereas other DBMSs focus on features or on being the most advanced, we focus on being reliable, fast, and easy to use. This focus sets us apart from all other products -- open source and closed. We believe that the software industry is rapidly getting commoditized and vendors need to make sure that their products are convenient even if they have very advanced technology inside.

That's where we have a clear lead today. Naturally, we are ready for the other vendors moving in our direction and that's why we keep innovating around usability, reliability and scalability.

EOS: And how do you plan to continue to compete against the major proprietary companies, not only Oracle, but IBM and Sybase, for example?

MM: By having a clear focus on reliability, performance and ease of use. We believe that the only way to gain a significant role in an old market (such as the DBMS market) is to offer a new type of product with a new type of business model and a new type of distribution system. Our 40,000 product downloads per day indicate to us that there is a major shift happening in the market. Such changes don't happen overnight, but when they happen, they can be enormous. In this market disruption, the old players will probably be able to retain their installed base for some time, but the new growth will likely go to the modern vendors.

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