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MySQL goes all-out for Windows

Oracle's MySQL team in Sweden is looking for Windows developers, according to development director Tomas Ulin

IDG spoke with Tomas Ulin, the Swede in charge of development of Oracle's SQL database manager. He works from a humble office in central Stockholm. Right now, he's looking for experts on Windows.

After Oracle bought Sun in early 2010, there's been much concern about what Oracle plans to do with the MySQL database manager. This is because Oracle's main product is their proprietary database manager Oracle Database. This remains the flagship product of the U.S. IT giant, despite ambitious initiatives involving everything from enterprise systems to servers.

During recent months, it has become obvious that Oracle is pitting MySQL against Microsoft's database products. According to Ulin, MySQL's director of development, it involves SQL Server, Access and other database solutions specialized for Windows.

"We're concentrating specifically on the Windows platform right now," he said.

MySQL is a popular free open source database. It was developed in the 1990s by a group of Finns and Swedes, then based in Uppsala, Sweden.

Traditionally, MySQL is a database for Linux users, used when working with the web, and part of the LAMP concept -- Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP. Those are the four open legs of web development where Linux is the OS, Apache the web server, MySQL the database and PHP the development language.

"Now we're seeing an immense potential for expanding our business into Windows. So we're devoting even more resources to that," said Ulin.

"Windows users are used to paying their way. On the Linux side, there's this mentality that everything should be for free."

To manage the adaptation to Windows, Oracle is recruiting development experts with special Windows platform competence. But there is no collaboration with Microsoft.

Oracle's MySQL team is making a special effort to improve the performance on Windows. Ulin said that the Windows platform differs from Linux especially in the areas of threading and the synchronization of threads.

The plan is for Oracle Database to be the platform of choice for heavy applications, for example supporting enterprise systems like SAP. MySQL is the alternative for web applications. Many organizations might use both products. Ulin said that 350,000 costumers are running both Oracle Database and MySQL.

"When an internet business grows and becomes an eBay or a Facebook, we continue to serve them," he said.

Most non-Swedish IT providers with Swedish subsidiaries only have a sales and support organization. For Oracle, this is a big office in Kista, north of Stockholm, where 300 to 400 people are reported to work. However, there is also a small Oracle sign on an unassuming office building in the Södermalm part of central Stockholm, where an even greater number of developers work. People are spread out over four floors. The space is crowded and not very modern. This fall, the office will be relocated to a nicer environment on the waterfront.

The current location was inherited from JRockit, the Java engine developed in Sweden that Oracle acquired after the acquisition of BEA Systems three years ago. Oracle is now merging JRockit with Sun's Hotspot.

MySQL has found a good, long-term home with Oracle, said Ulin. He is delighted to be back together with the group behind the InnoDB database engine.

Oracle was severely criticized by the open source community when the company took over MySQL. But the great advantage with Oracle, according to Ulin, is that the business idea has become more clear.

Also, work is done in a long-term perspective. Before Oracle, venture capitalists kept demanding cash returns.

Most of all, Ulin is pleased with having MySQL again run on the database engine InnoDB, originally developed in Finland. Now, InnoDB is part of the same developer team, part of the server team.

"It was quite unfortunate that Oracle bought InnoDB in 2005, since then it was our main track. Now, we're back where we ought to have been from the start."

One of the strongest critics of Oracle is the former director of development for MySQL, Michael "Monty" Widenius. When Computer Sweden met him in Espoo, near Helsinki, last fall, he said: "Oracle's purpose is that MySQL should die."

Ulin's reaction is that "He's entitled to his opinion. We have showed that we mean business with MySQL. Many have become more positive to Oracle since we've shown how we're continuing development of MySQL with versions 5.5 and 5.6."

"Monty wants to challenge Oracle, and this is not his ideal situation."

According to Widenius, the inner core of top MySQL developers have abandoned the project and joined his own fork, MariaDB.

"I cannot see more people leaving now than before," said Ulin.

There has been turbulence at MySQL before, he said, and people have joined and quit in several waves.

"As early as 2003 or 2004, people were leaving. There's always rotation."

He won't say exactly how many people are working with MySQL, only that their number is "higher than ever before," and that the number of developers has increased continuously from year to year.

Oracle's business idea with MySQL is to make money on support and auxiliary products, such as backup copies and supervision. It is, however, not sold separately but in packages, which include a commercial licence for MySQL. The core product MySQL remains an open and free database under the GPL license. Oracle said that many customers still want the commercial licence.

For upcoming versions of MySQL, the development team is working on its performance and user friendliness. They're also countering the NoSQL database trend by providing better scaling in web use.

The group is also working on integration with a number of Oracle products for backup and for certification for Fusion Middleware.


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