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Few can expect any open source-related news to escape its share of both withering scorn and good insight from venues such as Slashdot. This premise held true when a recent, independent study done by Reasoning Inc. claimed that open source database MySQL was some 6 times cleaner than comparable proprietary code.

With the comments on Slashdot in mind, and with the knowledge that MySQL 5.0 will be announced soon, Database Editor Lisa Vaas decided to catch up with MySQL AB CEO Marten Mickos to get some feedback on the community commentary and to find out what his company’s planning in the new year.

•Click here to read a sampling of Slashdot comments and to click on through to the entire discussion. What are your expectations, plans, hopes and wishes for MySQL as it enters the new year?

Mickos: I believe 2004 will be a year of great economies. There will be good economy for users of Linux who expand to use the entire open-source stack. There will be good economy for all those open-source vendors who by now have a viable business model. And there will be economies of scale as open-source solutions are being duplicated, replicated and multiplied all over the world.’re seeing some up tick in the economy. How do you think that will impact MySQL?

Mickos:I agree with the view that the economy is slowly recovering, and that’s good news for everyone. That said, customers tell us that they will continue to want to do more with less, and that’s why I believe that MySQL’s business may grow faster in 2004 than in 2003.

You might even claim (and I certainly believe so) that open source is one of the enablers of the economic recovery, as it allows companies to expand and deploy new systems without having to risk their financial stability.

Mickos on taking over SAP AG’s open-source database. The release of MaxDB, once SAP AG’s open-source, enterprise-level database, was a big deal for MySQL in 2003. Now that you’ve released it, what’s the feedback? What are the plans on developing the next release?

Mickos: MaxDB and the partnership with SAP are long-term undertakings, the full effects of which will be clearly visible over a number of years.

Already at this point, however, we see good results. Our existing customers are coming to us to get MaxDB, and the customers of SAP are increasingly running their new apps on MaxDB.

Click here to read about MySQL’s release of MaxDB.

We will continue to strengthen the interoperability between MaxDB and MySQL. In short, this allows customers to use MySQL when performance and ease of deployment are paramount, and MaxDB when feature-richness is paramount. And whenever it makes sense, data or entire applications can be moved from one database to the other. This allows customers to right-size their database installations and thereby save money.

SAP AG has proven to be a great company to partner with. They are well-organized, committed and straightforward to communicate with. Despite the large size of SAP, the people are filled with an entrepreneurial spirit that you normally find only in small companies.

User feedback is useful—whether it’s constructive criticism or flaming. MySQL has been putting out the message that MySQL is a low-cost, commodity database—something that, although it isn’t as full-featured or robust as the larger RDBMSes, will do just fine in many instances. But there are still plenty of DBAs—I’m thinking of some Slashdot comments I read recently—that said MySQL just isn’t robust enough to support transactions.

They complain about data integrity in MySQL, lack of transactions/stored procedures, transactions that are prone to data loss, etc. I know that some of these are being addressed in the alpha of MySQL 5.0.

Are these charges well-founded? Any comments you want to make on plans to make MySQL more robust?

Click here to read more about the alpha of MySQL 5.0 and its features.

For us as a company, there is nothing more welcome than feedback from our users—positive or negative. If someone goes through the trouble of posting his or her thoughts about MySQL on Slashdot, it means that he or she cares and has an interest in the product becoming even better. We chastise those whom we love.

If we look at the substance of those comments, they fall into a number of categories: Some comments are a matter of taste, and there is no right or wrong answer. We listen carefully to these comments to understand what the majority of our users prefer, and sometimes we make changes to syntax, parameters or default settings accordingly.

MySQL said it fixed the bugs found in Reasoning’s studies. Click here to read the story and find out where to download the new version.

Some comments are based on previous versions of MySQL (or previous misconceptions about MySQL) and in such cases we try to improve our communication and product presentations. Some comments have high technical validity and feed directly into our product development plans and roadmaps. Finally, some odd comments always fall under the category of flaming. These comments typically get moderated down (on Slashdot) and get corrected by other postings.

So when people claim that MySQL is not robust enough, we understand it as a challenge—a claim that they wish us to prove wrong. And that’s what we have been doing for the past years by adding features and modules to MySQL that make it suitable for some of the most demanding applications.

Best proof of this, in our mind, is our list of customers who depend on MySQL in their everyday business (Cisco, Yahoo, Google, Sabre, Cox Communications, Associated Press, etc.).

Database Center Editor Lisa Vaas has written about enterprise applications since 1997.