Sun gets a database manager, but Oracle owns its InnoDB engine

Sun now has a database manager. It’s been a long time coming. Oracle has … Oracle, IBM has DB2, Microsoft has SQL Server; it’s been obvious for years that Sun had a gap to fill. Now Sun has MySQL.

This is interesting to me as I was a relatively early user of the product. I didn’t much like it. It was missing important features like transactions, stored procedures and triggers. I still used it though because of a few appealing characteristics:

  • It was free
  • It was very fast
  • It was lightweight
  • It was the M in LAMP

I should expand slightly on the last of these. The great thing about MySQL was that you did not need to think about installation, PHP drivers, or anything like that. It all came pretty much by default. If you decided that you could not bear MySQL’s limitations, you could use Postgres instead, but it was more effort and less quick.

The ascent of MySQL is a sort of software development parable. Like PHP, MySQL came about from one person’s desire to fix a problem. That person was Michael “Monty” Widenius. He wanted something a little better than mSQL, a popular small database engine at the time:

We once started off with the intention to use mSQL to connect to our own fast low level (ISAM) tables. However, after some testing we came to the conclusion that mSQL was not fast or flexible enough for our needs. This resulted in a new SQL interface to our database but with almost the same API interface as mSQL. This API was chosen to ease porting of third-party code.

Why did MySQL take off when there were better database engines already out there? It was partly to do with the nature of many LAMP applications in the early days. They were often not mission-critical (mine certainly were not), and they were typically weighted towards reading rather than writing data. If you are building a web site, you want pages served as quickly as possible. MySQL did that, and without consuming too many resources. Many database engines were better, but not many were faster.

MySQL today has grown up in many ways, though transactions are still an issue. To use them you need to use an alternate back-end storage engine, either InnoDB or BDB. BDB is deprecated, and InnoDB is included by default in current releases of MySQL. InnoDB is owned by Oracle, which could prove interesting given how this deal changes the dynamics of Sun’s relationship with Oracle, though both MySQL and InnoDB are open source and published under the GPL. Will Sun try to find an alternative to InnoDB?

While I agree with most commentators that this is a good move for Sun, it’s worth noting that MySQL was not originally designed to meet Enterprise needs, which is where most of the money is.

Update: as Barry Carr comments below, there is a planned replacement for InnoDB called Falcon.

3 thoughts on “Sun gets a database manager, but Oracle owns its InnoDB engine”

  1. Marty

    Sorry, I meant only that BDB is deprecated for use as a storage engine for MySQL. That’s my understanding, anyway.


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