Saturday, September 12, 2009

EU Should Protect MySQL-based Special Purpose Database Vendors

In my recent post on the EU antitrust regulators' probe into the Oracle Sun merger I did not mention an important class of stakeholders: the MySQL-based special purpose database startups. By these I mean:

I think it's safe to say the first three are comparable in the sense that they are all analytical databases: they are designed for data warehousing and business intelligence applications. ScaleDB might be a good fit for those applications, but I think it's architecture is sufficiently different from the first three to not call it an analytical database.

For Kickfire and Infobright, the selling point is that they are offering a relatively cheap solution to build large data warehouses and responsive business intelligence applications. (I can't really find enough information on Calpoint pricing, although they do mention low total cost of ownership.) An extra selling point is that they are MySQL compatible, which may make some difference for some customers. But that compatibility is in my opinion not as important as the availability of a serious data warehousing solution at a really sharp price.

Now, in my previous post, I mentioned that the MySQL and Oracle RDBMS products are very different, and I do not perceive them as competing. Instead of trying to kill the plain MySQL database server product, Oracle should take advantage of a huge opportunity to help shape the web by being a good steward, leading ongoing MySQL development, and in addition, enable their current Oracle Enterprise customers to build cheap LAMP-based websites (with the possibility of adding value by offering Oracle to MySQL data integration).

For these analytical database solutions, things may be different though.

I think these MySQL based analytical databases really are competitive to Oracle's Exadata analytical appliance. Oracle could form a serious threat to these MySQL-based analytical database vendors. After the merger, Oracle would certainly be in a position to hamper these vendors by resticting the non-GPL licensed usage of MySQL.
In a recent ad, Oracle vouched to increase investments in developing Sun's hardware and operating system technology. And this would eventually put them in an even better position to create appliances like Exadata, allowing them to ditch an external hardware partner like HP (which is their Exadata hardware partner).

So, all in all, in my opinion the EU should definitely take a serious look at the dynamics of the analytical database market and decide how much impact the Oracle / Sun merger could have on this particular class of MySQL OEM customers. The rise of these relatvely cheap MySQL-based analytical databases is a very interesting development for the business intelligence and data warehousing space in general, and means a big win for customers that need affordable datawarhousing / business intelligence. It would be a shame if it would be curtailed by Oracle. After the merger, Oracle sure would have the means and the motive, so if someone needs protection, I think it would be these MySQL-based vendors of analytical databases.

As always, these are just my musing and opinions - speculation is free. Feel free to correct me, add applause or point out my ignorance :)


Jos van Dongen said...

Hi Roland,

Good point! It might even affect not only the analytical vendors, but also companies like Schooner, Virident and RethinkDB who are trying to optimize MySQL performance by (mainly) using SSD technology.

rpbouman said...

Hi Jos,

thanks for the comment!

yes, but I singled out the analytical databases because there is a clear example of a competing product from Oracle (Exadata).

Perhaps Oracle does sport other solutions that compete with the products from the vendors mentioned by you, but I haven't looked into that matter enough to judge it at this point.

Mark Callaghan said...

What does it mean to protect them? When we speculate about how Oracle might treat them, we should understand how they are treated today by Sun/MySQL. But I don't think we know that. I don't think that all of the storage vendors have signed deals with Sun to get a non-GPL license to MySQL. And what is the size of the market for these vendors? Are customers buying their products today?

rpbouman said...

Hi Mark!

thanks for posting a comment - I appreciate it.

Regarding the license: it is indeed my assumption that all the vendors I mentioned have some deal in order to legally distribute MySQL to distribute it as part of their proprietary product. I mean, at the very least they should have secured some form of permission from Sun to distribute MySQL in a derivative work that is itself not licensed as GPL, and I think that permission constitutes a license. Now, affter the merger, Oracle will control the terms of that license.

As for the market size: I'm not sure the actual size is what matters here. The point is, if it would be made next to impossible to continue business due to Oracle changing the licensing terms, each customer is an affected party. I don't know about Kickfire, but at least Infobright seems to have a bunch of them:

I also believe that, regardless of any current customers, it would adversely affect choice in the market as a whole if all these vendors were forced out of business.

Mark Callaghan said...

You might be speculating that Oracle will make things difficult for storage engine vendors. But what terms does Sun demand from them today? I don't think that all vendors have a deal today. What does that imply?

Given the content of the blog postings from the CEO, I don't think that ScaleDB has a deal. For example --

I agree that this may impact the market for non-GPL MySQL, but there is a much larger market that is getting clobbered right now -- revenue at Sun.

This has been nagging me for a while.


The more interesting topic is Exadata. I don't think anything in the MySQL space is close to Exadata. Oracle/HP did an amazing job building a balanced machine that delivers/consumes a ridiculous amount of IO throughput that can be delivered on spec sheets and on real data and they have yet to incorporate SSD/Flash.

I assume that Exadata v2 will be done on Sun storage hardware.

rpbouman said...

Hi Mark,

thanks again for your insights.

I wasn't thinking so much about storage engine vendors in general, i was thinking about the analytical ones. I know that Kickfire and Infobright also modified other parts of the sever (optimizer) and I would not be surprised if the other vendors I mentioned do so too.

Perhaps I'm not sensitive enough to any hidden messages, but I can't discover anything in the blog post you mention that leads me to believe ScaleDB wouldn't have a deal with sun. Perhaps I am not understanding your usage of the word "deal" like I should? I thought you are referring to a normal agreement - not some special exceptional kind of use.

Regarding Exadata - I trust your judgement completely if you say that there is nothing in its league in the MySQL sphere today. But that doesn't have to mean that the MySQL-based analytical products aren't competing with it.

kind regards,

Anonymous said...

>> The EU Should Protect MySQL-based Special Purpose Database Vendors

... even if none of those companies are actually from the EU? Is that within their scope?

rpbouman said...

Hi Anonymous,

you might have a point there. But if you look at the statement from EU comissioner Neelie Kroes, I do think the scope is broader than just the interests of the competing companies themselves:

"The Commission has to examine very carefully the effects on competition in Europe when the world's leading proprietary database company proposes to take over the world's leading open source database company. In particular, the Commission has an obligation to ensure that customers would not face reduced choice or higher prices as a result of this takeover. Databases are a key element of company IT systems. In the current economic context, all companies are looking for cost-effective IT solutions, and systems based on open-source software are increasingly emerging as viable alternatives to proprietary solutions. The Commission has to ensure that such alternatives would continue to be available"

So she mentions "competition in Europe", and also "companies" that "are looking for cost-effective IT-solutions". I don't think the merging and competing companies need to be European to protect the interests of customers of such companies.

That said, I am absolutely not an expert in antitrust matters, so I may be completely wrong in my assesment.

kind regards,


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