Cloud vendors 'strip mining' open source: MariaDB's CEO

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Michael Howard
Michael Howard

While open source made what appeared to be an indelible mark on Wall Street in 2018 with deals involving acquisitions and listings valued at around $107 billion, it has not all been plain sailing.

According to Michael Howard, CEO of MariaDB - the organisation behind the popular open source relational database management system - the community driven project still faces significant challenges from a variety of quarters, including large cloud vendors, who, he said, were 'strip mining' open source technology.

Delivering the keynote address at the third annual MariaDB OpenWorks user and developer conference in New York last week (26 February), he did not name the culprits - "you know who they are" - but maintained that they "really abuse the licence and the privilege (of open source), not giving back to the community (and) forcing some (open source) companies to have awkward and weak responses."

His criticism of cloud vendors did not stop there, as he accused cloud developers of "constraining data footprints into anaemic database templates" that only focused on the transaction rather than on what its implications were for the organisation. This had the effect of "lobotomising data".

"If your database doesn't have the capability to add analytics to a transactional workload, or it is constrained by these anaemic database templates, you will not be able to meet your customers' expectations," he added and urged the audience to "break away from history, convention and vendor indoctrination" in order to add more to their database themselves.

One way in which this break with convention could occur was with MariaDB, a community-developed, commercially supported fork of the MySQL relational database management system (DBMS). MariaDB's development is led by some of the original developers of MySQL including Michael 'Monty' Widenius who named the software after his younger daughter Maria, following the naming of MySQL after his other daughter, My.

The development of MariaDB is reputed to have been a response by Widenius and several of his fellow MySQL developers to the software's acquisition by Sun Microsystems (Oracle) in an effort to ensure the availability of free and open-source relational database management software.

Now, Howard said, MariaDB was the "heir apparent to Oracle", allowing for analytics to be added to transactional workloads, enabling the use of cloud services that were not template-constrained, and encouraging "conspicuous innovation".

"It's time to bring back sexy into the database conversation," he declared. "Proprietary and closed licences are dead and general purpose databases will drive applications worldwide."

According to Howard, MariaDB is growing enormously, particularly in enterprise computing, and doing so at Oracle's expense thanks to its Oracle compatibility layer that enables the relatively easy migration from complex operational Oracle systems to Maria DB.

In the first two months of 2019, there were five times more Oracle Enterprise to MariaDB migrations than there had been in the whole of 2018, he said, one of which included one of the largest banks in the world - the Development Bank of Singapore - forklifting its Oracle system to MariaDB.

With some 40% of Fortune 2000 companies already using it, Howard is confident that MariaDB's largest growth potential will come not from it being an Oracle clone, but as a major business DBMS option.

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