MySQL AB to counter Oracle buy of Innobase

MySQL AB said it is evaluating options to replace a database engine whose innovator was recently purchased by Oracle.

Six weeks after Oracle bought Finnish software developer Innobase Oy, MySQL AB 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 said Tuesday.

Database industry watchers have speculated what the impact of Oracle's buy-out would be for MySQL's open-source database. But MySQL, the Swedish company that provides support services around the open-source software, is maneuvering for a replacement option.

"Obviously because Oracle made that acquisition we are evaluating options to replace that functionality in some way," said Richard Mason, vice president of MySQL for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). "We're not at the point yet where we can go public with what that plan is but we will be shortly."

Innobase developed the most popular storage engine used with MySQL, version 5.0 of which was released about three weeks ago. The InnoDB storage engine 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 potential renewal next year.

Mason was one of several officials from MySQL AB who hosted the company's first northern European customer conference in London Tuesday. The first question asked of MySQL AB co-founder David Axmark was about 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 License), 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. The company isn't saying yet what it plans to do. 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, said David Cartwright, a database specialist and managing director of Korana Technology. If Oracle is going to allow MySQL AB to use the database engine's code, then there's no big deal, he said.

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

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

Nonetheless, MySQL AB officials say there have been more than 1 million downloads of the software since it has been released. Further, the company has signed global distribution agreements with Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and Novell Inc. and licensed them to redistribute MySQL Network, the company's support services for the free database, Mason said. It's an annual charge per server, he said.

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

The deals increases the distribution network of MySQL and makes chief information officers see the software "as acceptable and part of the enterprise landscape," Mason said.

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