MySQL – The Real Broadband Brain

In a broadband enabled life, no piece of software is as crucial as a database – from our cell phone records, our blog entries, our address books, and of course all the information we need to store about our music collections, digital downloads and emails. In an effort to understand the importance of database, I spent a little time with Marten Mickos, chief executive of MySQL Inc.

mysql_marten_mickos-hl.jpgMySQL is an interesting company – totally open sourced, and totally decentralized. It has 170 employees in 19 countries, and they all function as one living enterprise. Actually one of things that fascinates me about MySQL is that it is a classic example of “open source” taking away growth opportunities from incumbents. The company is said to have racked up $20 million in sales this year, even though its product – the MySQL is available for free and is open sources. The Associated Press, Google, NASA, Sabre Holdings and Suzuki, Craigslist, and scores of others are building their businesses on this database. Embedded versions are found in WiFi routers, in MP3 jukeboxes and even on some PDAs.

”MySQL has allowed us to save more than $1 million in database licenses and hardware costs,” says Shakeel Sorathia, director of Engineering for City Search. And that money is coming out of someone’s pocket – someone like the big four legacy databases. According to InformationWeek research published in November, open source databases such as MySQL continue to gain significant traction in mainstream corporate applications. Of the hundreds of companies interviewed, 42% of them are already using open source software in their production databases – with another 33% currently considering an open source deployment. Here are some excerpts from an interview I had conducted with Mickos, who is busy guiding his troops put finishing touches on version 5.0 just in time to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of MySQL in 2005: (Photo courtsey, ZDNet.De)

Q: What is MySQL and how are you different from Oracle, Sybase, Informix and Microsoft’s databases?
A: We are the IKEA of databases, good simple design, easy to use and cheap. The others are selling antique furniture. We are about more, for a lot less.

Q: Is the role of database changing in the always-on connected world?
A: Traditionally, the notion was that information was something you stored. Now it’s about interacting with that information, and sharing it. I think the focus is now on data aggregation and mining data. I think that’s why companies like Embarcadero and Golden Gate are very important.

Q: But aren’t databases asynchronous and monolithic, including those made by MySQL?
A: Synchronization is the next step, and we need to build database grids. I don’t think anyone has all those features yet, but it clearly is the next wave.

Q: What are the biggest bottlenecks in the database business?
A: Right now the database is the performance bottleneck. You cannot solve that problem by redesigning the database, because you really cannot abandon the relational database or SQL query language. It’s a legacy you have to love with. It’s too late to change the game. I think you address this by making very ease to use databases and smart business systems. I think we have a database, which is ideal for broadband world, and is optimize for the web usage. I think you really want to see the future, and then look at Google. They are the really big database into which many small databases plug-in and try and stay synchronized.

Q: Looks like MySQL is not really an innovator, instead it seems to be a fast follower?
A: We let the open source community innovate. We can’t invent everything and open source developers really do a great job. I think we have an ecosystem and partners, and that’s our value add. Look we are now in businesses, which were not using databases. Weblogs are a perfect example.

We are going to be in online games, search engines, intrusion detection boxes, security … MySQL is getting into the network elements, into the nodes, and that’s a new area of growth. I think routers will be next. Imagine real time routing on MySQL – that would be great.

Q: Can you talk a little about web logs?
A: Weblogs are going to be a great development. Look, the postmodern man is lonely and insulated. Writing a weblog is a way to be connected and not be lonely. I think we will see an explosion in the weblogs. Its hard to say if we will make any money from weblogs, but it will be an opportunity for MySQL platform.