NoSQL is still not well understood, as a term or a database market category, by enterprise IT decision makers. However, one NoSQL vendor, 10gen, creators of open source MongoDB, appears to be growing into enterprise accounts and distancing themselves from competitors. If you’re considering, or curious about, NoSQL databases, spend some time looking at MongoDB.

Understanding not only SQL, aka NoSQL
While the term NoSQL suggests a product category that is anti-SQL or anti-relational databases, the term has evolved to mean “not only SQL”.

According to, there are over 122 NoSQL database products to date. These products differ from traditional relational databases as they don’t rely on a relational model, are often schema free and support eventually consistent, not ACID, transactions.

While companies needing to manage terabytes of data across commodity servers, such as Facebook, FourSquare or Shutterfly have been early adopters of NoSQL databases, traditional enterprises such as Disney and Intuit are joining the NoSQL customer list.

Max Schireson, president of 10Gen, asserts that relational databases are here to stay and have an important role to play in tomorrow’s enterprise.

Schireson sees NoSQL and relational databases both being used within a given enterprise, albeit for different applications.

If this positioning sounds familiar, recall that MySQL attempted to paint a picture of co-habitation with enterprise database vendors.

If an application is processing sales orders and needs absolute guaranteed transactions, a relational database supporting ACID transactions is a must. If an application is processing millions of events, such as click streams, in order to better optimize an online sales catalog, and losing a few of those events is less critical than being able to scale the application and data across commodity servers, then a NoSQL database could be a perfect fit.

MongoDB distances itself from NoSQL alternatives
While NoSQL databases such as Cassandra, originally developed and used by Facebook, or CouchDB get a lot of media attention, MongoDB appears to be the product to catch in this hot market.

Worldwide Google searches for various NoSQL product names shows the marked increase in MongoDB and Mongo searches since January 2011. Google searches for MongoDB and Mongo exceeded searches for CouchDB, Couchbase, Membase, Cassandra, and HBase combined.

According to, jobs seeking MongoDB or Mongo skills have outpaced other leading NoSQL products. MongoDB and Mongo now represent the most sought after NoSQL skills amongst companies hiring on

Recently announced platform as a service offerings from Red Hat and VMware featured MongoDB at the data services layer of their respective offerings.

Schireson shared some stats on 10Gen’s commercial business growth into the enterprise with MongoDB.

Six months ago the majority of 10Gen customers were startups; today the majority are traditional enterprise customers. In fact, 10Gen counts five Fortune 100 companies amongst its over 200 paying customers.

With over 100,000 downloads per month and developer attendance to MongoDB conferences increasing 400 percent to nearly 2,000 across San Francisco, New York and Beijing, MongoDB traction continues to increase.

Schireson explained that many enterprises have developers interested in MongoDB, as the above download and conference attendance data backs up. However, enterprises are waiting for their peers to go first into the world of NoSQL.

Schireson revealed that securing Disney as a public MongoDB reference has led to increased enterprise interest in 10gen from MongoDB users.

MSQL poster child Craigslist adopts MongoDB
Another recent coup for 10Gen was winning Craigslist as a customer of MongoDB.

Craigslist’s Jeremy Zawodny, author of the popular High Performance MySQL book, recently spoke about Craigslist adopting MongoDB to handle Craigslist’s multi-billion document deployment. Zawodny explains Craigslist’s evolution from being a MySQL everywhere shop to selecting the appropriate database technology based on varying data and performance needs.

When Zawodny, a MySQL performance guru, gets behind MongoDB, it’s time for enterprises interested in NoSQL to consider MongoDB.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.”

A quick review of the Save MySQL online petition stats today shows that the results are still in line with the results I reported previously.  Over 90 percent of petition signees would require Oracle to divest MySQL to a “suitable third party”.  I noticed that Michael “Monty” Widenius’ post explaining the petition provided several options for a “suitable third party”.  First off, Monty makes it clear that his company is not interested in acquiring MySQL.  Monty’s list of potential buyers includes IBM, Fujitsu, any of the major Linux distribution vendors or a private equity firm that would take MySQL public.

As an IBMer I was interested to hear more about Monty’s thoughts on IBM.  Note that I do not work in the division where IBM’s database, DB2, is managed.  Nor do I have any information about IBM’s interest, or lack thereof, in MySQL.

I asked Monty this question via email:

Q] Would you require that IBM add the linking exception or have to re-license MySQL under the ASL 2.0 in order to acquire MySQL?

The linking exception or having to re-license MySQL are two of the options that Monty & Florian Mueller would like to see Oracle select before being allowed to acquire MySQL.

Monty replied:

“Personally I don’t consider IBM a direct competitor to MySQL and thus there would not be a need for a licensing remedy…With MySQL, IBM would have a vehicle to become a market leader in databases. IBM could only do this if they keep MySQL free to ensure it keeps it dominant position in units…IBM has more to gain by keeping MySQL Open Source and available to all than they could get by killing it.  With Oracle this is not the case.”

At first I bristled at this reply.  Why should Oracle accept a set of restrictions that IBM, another competitor in the database market, would not face?  However, the difference lies in the market position of the acquiring vendor.  Oracle is the revenue leader in the relational database market with over 40 percent share according to Gartner and IDC.  I don’t have the Gartner data handy, but IDC data suggests that Oracle had approximately a 2 to 1 lead versus IBM and Microsoft individually.  Considering Oracle’s market position versus IBM and Microsoft, it’s understandable that regulators would treat an Oracle acquisition of MySQL differently than, for example a Microsoft or IBM acquisition of MySQL.

One thing that does surprise me, pleasantly, is that Monty doesn’t see a “need for a licensing remedy” should IBM (Fujitsu or any of the major Linux distribution vendors) acquire MySQL.  Many have questioned Monty’s motives for blocking the MySQL acquisition.  Monty’s company competes with MySQL, but, unlike MySQL, Monty’s company cannot provide a commercial license to business partners or enterprises.  That’s why the linking exception or having to re-license MySQL under the Apache Software License 2.0 is seen as a boon to third party providers of MySQL products and services.  Had Monty replied that he would like any potential acquirer of MySQL accept a licensing remedy, one could draw a connection back to his current business interests.

Readers can make up their own mind as to Monty’s or Oracle’s motives.  But like most things in life, the story isn’t cut and dry.  And while I personally believe there is more for Oracle to gain by nurturing MySQL than not, but Larry Ellison won’t return my calls.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Florian Mueller begins 2010 by demonstrating why he was named EU Campaigner of the Year by the Economist five years ago. While most of us were prepping for New Year’s Eve celebrations or contemplating New Year’s resolutions, Monty and Mueller spent December 28th launching an online Save MySQL petition against the Oracle acquisition of MySQL via Sun. Mueller reports via email:

“ campaign delivers first 14,000 signatures against Oracle’s proposed acquisition of MySQL to European, Chinese and Russian competition authorities.

In less than one week, during the Holiday Season, we gathered 50 times more customer support than Oracle claimed three weeks ago.”

You can read the full press release here.

The campaign is displaying stats from petition signees.  This post is based on the first 16,306 signees as of 9am EST on Monday, January 4th.  If the results change markedly with new signees, I’ll post an update.

MySQL Enterprise Usage
Whether MySQL poses a competitive threat to Oracle’s database business has been a point of significant disagreement between Oracle and opponents of the MySQL acquisition including Monty and Mueller.  Oracle says there is little to no overlap.  Monty argues that MySQL has become feature rich and is a suitable replacement for Oracle’s database in several situations. Nearly a quarter of respondents identified themselves as working at a company using MySQL, and not simply an independent or self-employed software or web developer.  Of the respondents working at a company using MySQL, just over 20 percent worked at a company with 1000 or more employees.  This is clearly a customer group where Oracle databases would compete.  These results would seem to support Monty’s claims about MySQL competitiveness against Oracle.  On the other hand, there’s no reason that a large company wouldn’t want to use both MySQL and Oracle databases for small and large projects respectively.  In such a situation, did the MySQL usage displace Oracle usage, or, as Oracle would argue, SQL Server usage?  The former would support Monty’s claim, while the latter would support Oracle’s claim.  A generalized version of this question would have been a helpful addition to the Save MySQL petition.

Signees Would Require Oracle to Sell MySQL
Of the three solutions that Mueller and Monty suggest Oracle agree to before being allowed to complete the Sun acquisition, over 90 percent of signees believe that MySQL must be divested to a suitable third party.  Only 60 percent of signees believe that Oracle should be allowed to acquire MySQL as part of the Sun acquisition.  These signees would require Oracle to either commit to a linking exception for applications that use MySQL or require Oracle to release past and future versions of MySQL under the Apache Software License 2.0.

Go ahead and take a look at the petition here.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Last week Eben Moglen, founder and executive director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), submitted an independent opinion on the Oracle/Sun merger to the European Union (EU). Moglen summarized his submission as follows:

“The GPL was designed specifically to ensure the permanent freedom of software, and the ability of everyone to improve and share their improvements to the program, no matter who acquires the copyrights to the code.  The whole point of GPL as a copyright license is to deal with every contingency that could result in hobbling or destroying the freedom of code shared under it. The drafters of GPL versions 2 and 3 considered scenarios very similar to the ones that the Commission is concerned about now. The design of the license, and the experience we have had using it, show that it can be counted upon to operate as intended in situations like this one.”

Moglen issued the 11 page opinion, pro bono and without the charge, at the request of Oracle’s counsel.  Moglen clarified that Oracle is an ongoing contributor to the SFLC, while Monty Widenius has contributed in the past.  However, neither the contributions from Oracle nor Widenius have exceeded 5 percent of SFLC’s funding since inception.

I found the following paragraph from Moglen’s submission particularly interesting:

“MySQL is now and always has been an atypical GPL software project, because its copyright was highly centralized inside a small commercial firm that considered dual licensing its only commercially attractive strategy for survival. But even MySQL AB’s atypical business model, which was highly unreflective of the mass of GPL’d software development, occurred within the parameters of the GPL’s overall design, which is to ensure the freedom of the software it protects regardless of the commercial motivations or behaviors of the parties distributing the primary upstream version.”

On the other end of the debate, Florian Mueller announced that he has submitted a 31 page rebuttal to Moglen’s position.  Mueller provided a summary of the highlights via email, from which I selected these comments:

“Fundamentally, his paper offers a different prediction as to what would happen post-acquisition. He simply expresses his firm belief that whatever made MySQL successful in the past is not really an indication for the future. In fact he believes MySQL AB had a very suboptimal business model…

If he were right that MySQL AB and all of the companies that succeeded around MySQL didn’t do it right and that a GPL-only approach works best, then actually there would be no point in Sun having acquired MySQL last year nor in Oracle acquiring it now because then the future would at any rate be that someone has to fork it and do a GPL-only project dependent on voluntary contributions. Interestingly, that approach would have been possible during all of those almost 14 years that MySQL has been available and no one, not even Eben Moglen, decided to seize that opportunity.”

Both Moglen and Mueller make strong and weak points.

First, Moglen is too quick to dismiss MySQL as an atypical GPL project.  As Mueller points out, whatever you think about MySQL and their business model, you can’t simply conclude that another business model would be more appropriate.  Just because Linux is licensed under the GPL and Linux vendors, namely Red Hat and Novell are closing in on a combined $1B in revenue, does not mean the GPL is the best license for every open source product with commercial aspirations.  The Linux ecosystem is very different than say, application servers or web content management.  Different markets with different ecosystems require different license considerations.

While Moglen appears to be arguing for a “pure GPL” MySQL, departing from the dual-licensed status quo, Groklaw reports that Mueller and Widenius would like to see the MySQL open source license changed from GPLv2 to the Apache Software License.  According to Groklaw, page 19 of an unreleased submission to the EU from Mueller/Widenius stated:

“We would like to draw attention to the fact that some major concerns about the effects of the proposed transaction could be somewhat alleviated by requiring that all versions of MySQL source code previously released under the GPLv2 license …must be released under a more liberal open source license that is usable also by the OEM users and would also create an opportunity for other service vendors to compete with offerings comparable to MySQL Enterprise. A good candidate is the Apache Software License (ASL).”

Something doesn’t feel right about Widenius proposing a license that MySQL could have chosen “over the past 14 years”.  Clearly MySQL decided against this move as the GPL/dual licensing approach led to a competitive advantage that the ASL v2.0 would not provide MySQL.  But I guess that’s why Widenius suggests Oracle should be forced to re-license MySQL under a permissive license such as the ASL v2.0.

We haven’t heard the last from Widenius & Mueller. Enjoy your holiday season ;-)

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Oracle updated its frequently asked questions (FAQ) overview of the impending Sun acquisition to address some important questions about the fate of Sun’s software assets beyond Java and Solaris.

To be completely honest, none of Oracle’s plans come as a surprise.  And at the end of the day, the FAQ is not legally binding and is not a commitment to deliver products, code or functionality. Oracle clearly states this at the end of the FAQ.  This too is completely understandable.  Oracle, like any other company with shareholders, will have to evaluate and adjust their plans and intentions on a product by product basis over time.  Oracle has a fiduciary duty to do so.

In the FAQ, potentially released to appease the EU and critics of the deal, Oracle tackles its plans for MySQL as follows:

“Oracle plans to spend more money developing MySQL than Sun does now. Oracle expects to continue to develop and provide the open source MySQL database after the transaction closes. Oracle plans to add MySQL to Oracle’s existing suite of database products, which already includes Berkeley DB, an open source database. Oracle also currently offers InnoDB, an open source transactional storage engine and the most important and popular transaction engine under MySQL. Oracle already distributes MySQL as part of our Enterprise Linux offering.”

This position makes complete sense as MySQL and the Oracle DB are more complimentary than competitive.  I doubt that this assurance from Oracle will help Monty, Florian, RMS and others opposed to Oracle’s ownership of MySQL get past their fears.

Not unexpectedly, Oracle plans to keep GlassFish around, since it is the reference implementation for Java EE:

“Oracle plans to continue evolving GlassFish Enterprise Server, delivering it as the open source reference implementation (RI) of the Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) specifications, and actively supporting the large GlassFish community. Additionally, Oracle plans to invest in aligning common infrastructure components and innovations from Oracle WebLogic Server and GlassFish Enterprise Server to benefit both Oracle WebLogic Server and GlassFish Enterprise Server customers.”

The plans for NetBeans are somewhat certain.  You’ll notice that Oracle makes no claims about “investing more than Sun does today” or “continue evolving”.

“As such, NetBeans is expected to provide an additional open source option and complement to the two free tools Oracle already offers for enterprise Java development: Oracle JDeveloper and Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse. While Oracle JDeveloper remains Oracle’s strategic development tool for the broad portfolio of Oracle Fusion Middleware products and for Oracle’s next generation of enterprise applications, developers will be able to use whichever free tool they are most comfortable with for pure Java and Java EE development: JDeveloper, Enterprise Pack for Eclipse, or NetBeans.”

Finally, Oracle suggests that and a commercial offering will receive investment.

“After the transaction closes, Oracle plans to continue developing and supporting OpenOffice as open source. As before, some of the larger customers will ask for extra assurances, support, and enterprise tools. For these customers we expect to offer a typical commercial license option.”

So there you have it.  Oracle’s plans for Sun, well, based on current thinking and subject to change at Oracle’s sole discretion.  Which again, is perfectly sensible.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

But this should have little impact on Oracle’s intentions for MySQL.

After finishing my post about Marten & Monty’s differing views on the Oracle acquisition of MySQL via Sun, I read that Richard Stallman (RMS) had published an open letter on the topic.  Matt Asay tweeted:

“Has anyone read this RMS/KEI/ORG ltr? It’s living in dreamland. ORCL buying MySQL to prevent “erosion” of its core DB biz? What erosion???”

Since Matt and I agree on much more today than 2 years ago, I began reading the open letter with less than an open mind.  However, since I haven’t really followed Oracle’s database business, I decided to look into Oracle’s financial reports to confirm or reject the “erosion” claim.  I have to say, RMS may not have a black belt in pragmatism, but he’s right.  Note however, I don’t think this fact changes Oracle’s likelihood of shepherding MySQL appropriately.  More on this point later in this post.

I’ve plotted two revenue growth lines for Oracle over the past two years and a quarter.  The blue line represents Oracle’s total revenue growth for fiscal year 2008, 2009 and for the first quarter of fiscal 2010.  Oracle had a great fiscal 2008, with nearly 25 percent year to year revenue growth.  More recently, Oracle’s total revenue declined by 5.2 percent in the first quarter ended August 31, 2009.  Not a shocking story considering the economy and Oracle’s $20 billion plus yearly revenue base.

The red line however is where it gets interesting.  Oracle reports database and middleware revenue together.  This category is largely made up of Oracle’s database products and Oracle middleware products resulting from the BEA acquisition.  However, even before the BEA acquisition, IDC estimated Oracle’s database revenue to be nearly 9 times larger than BEA’s middleware revenue.  So, for our purposes, we can assume that Oracle’s “database and middleware” segment is extremely sensitive to Oracle’s database sales.  The red line represents new license sales of database and middleware revenue reported by Oracle.  New license revenue is closely watched because it shows the vendor’s ability to attract new customers and new business.  As the red line shows, Oracle’s core database and middleware business is facing significant challenges in attracting new business.  A 0.5 percent decline in fiscal year 2009 could be considered an aberration, but following it up with a 22 percent decline in the first quarter of fiscal 2010 is alarming.  Erosion is clearly demonstrated by the red line below.

As I previously mentioned, the erosion in core database revenue is not reason enough to think that Oracle will try to systematically damage MySQL’s technology, future or user base.  The free-to-low cost and easy to use database genie is out of the bottle.  If MySQL were to become less viable after an Oracle acquisition, another database would take its place.  It may take years, but it’ll happen.  Even if MySQL were to disappear tomorrow, the competition from open source and free closed source databases would continue to target Oracle’s new license database and middleware revenue.  Should the acquisition be approved, it’s in Oracle’s interest to ensure that MySQL users remain MySQL users that Oracle can sell other parts of the Oracle portfolio into.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Ex MySQL leaders on opposite sides of EU vs. Oracle discussion

MySQL’s ex-CEO Marten Mickos and MySQL co-founder Michael ‘Monty’ Widenius have recently released open letters to the EU. Marten writes in support of Oracle acquisition of MySQL, as part of the Sun acquisition. Monty writes to block MySQL from being controlled by Oracle.

Considering their points of view, I have to say that I’m no longer convinced that the EU should just approve the acquisition and let market forces take over. In the long run, I think, and hope, that Oracle will act in its best interests, and those interests will align with MySQL customer interests; emphasis on “I think” and “hope”.

Let me start with Marten’s conclusion as to why the EU should allow the Oracle acquisition:

“I believe that Oracle’s acquisition of Sun (and MySQL) will increase competition in the database market. And I also believe that if, on the other hand, it becomes difficult or impossible for large companies to acquire open-source assets, then venture investments in open-source companies will slow down, harming the evolution of and innovation in open source, which would result in decreased competition.”

I completely agree with Marten here. If open source vendors and their VCs aren’t able to sell to larger companies, who may or may not be competitors, than open source investments will be negatively impacted. Closed source vendors have purchased their closed source competition in the past. And yes, the acquiring vendor has, more often than naught, migrated the customers to the acquiring vendor’s product. Should Oracle attempt this with MySQL, proponents of the deal argue that MySQL customers have several options from other firms providing MySQL support and services. To this end, Marten writes:

“…the few thousand customers of the MySQL Enterprise subscription offering.

These customers would be alarmed by a slow-down in development of MySQL and/or in the increase of price of the subscription offering. But they would not be alone. If the product did not evolve, these users could turn to the forks that would emerge. And as for commercial subscription services, they could turn to the various firms that provide MySQL services. If there were a sufficient number of such customers, it might turn out to be a market opportunity for a larger services-oriented company.”

However, in a position paper that Monty’s company funded, and written by Florian Muller, an influential EU & MySQL stakeholder, Muller writes:

“If the new owner decided at some point to call a halt to MySQL’s climbing up the disruption curve, it would be extremely difficult for any other commercial entity (hereinafter referred to as a “fork vendor”) to pick up the thread from there and practically impossible to do so quickly. This kind of competition would be ineffective compared to the competitive pressures exercised by MySQL AB while it was independent or by the MySQL division of Sun Microsystems, even if such an entity had the theoretical ability to recruit many software developers previously involved with MySQL.

To come straight to the most important point, the bulk of MySQL-related revenues at this stage depends on the two largest income streams, dual licensing and premium subscriptions, and on the current basis, a fork vendor would find itself effectively precluded from tapping those revenue sources.”

Muller argues that expecting existing and future MySQL customers to reject Oracle’s control over MySQL and turn to a “fork vendor” will not be commercially viable enough for the “fork vendor” to the degree that it was for the owner of MySQL’s brand and IP. A “fork vendor” would not be able to offer a non-GPL licensed version of MySQL. This is an important revenue driver with ISVs who don’t want to GPL license their product or enterprises that do not want to utilize GPL code. On the seemingly simple, yet costly front, the “fork vendor” wouldn’t even be able to reuse MySQL’s existing documentation, and would instead have to recreate product documentation. The “fork vendor” would also be exposed to patent infringement allegations, which may be difficult for the “fork vendor” to defend against, especially if the plaintiff is a large company with deep pockets and a large patent portfolio.

Muller and Monty have surfaced enough questions for the EU, and open source community, to rethink whether “anyone can fork the code” is reason enough for Oracle to shepherd the MySQL code, company and community appropriately. In the end, I actually think it makes business sense for Oracle to do so. And I hope that Oracle realizes the benefits of a vibrant MySQL customer and user base.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

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