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Oracle license revenue and the MySQL ecosystem

 | June 25, 2015 |  Posted In: MySQL

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Oracle was in the news recently with the story of its license revenue declining as much as 17% in the recent quarter. This is blamed on transitioning to the cloud in some publications, but others, such as Bloomberg and TechRepublic, look deeper, seeing open source software responsible for the bulk of it.

Things are especially interesting in the MySQL ecosystem, as Oracle both owns its traditional “Enterprise” Oracle database and MySQL – a more modern open source database.

At Percona we see the same story repeating among many of our enterprise customers:

  1. MySQL proves itself. This generally happens one of two ways. One is for the enterprise using traditional enterprise databases, such as Oracle or DB2, to acquire a company which has been built on MySQL. After the dust settles the CFO or CIO discovers that the acquired company has been successfully running business-critical operations with MySQL and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on database support instead of tens of millions. At this point it’s been shown that it can be done, so it should continue.

The other way is for MySQL to rise through the ranks in an organization. Typically it starts with some small MySQL use, such as running a bug tracking application in the IT department. Then it moves to MySQL being used with Drupal to power the main corporate website and an e-commerce function with Magento or something similar. Over time, MySQL proves itself and is trusted to handle more and more “core” enterprise databases that are absolutely critical for the business.

Interestingly enough, contrary to what some people have said, MySQL ownership by Oracle helps it to gain trust with many enterprise accounts. Enterprises may not like Oracle’s license and maintenance fees, but they like Oracle’s quality engineering, attention to security and predictable releases.

  1. New applications are built using MySQL. As the enterprise is ready to embrace MySQL it is added to the approved database list and now internal teams can use it to develop applications. In many cases the mandate goes even further with MySQL than with other open source technologies, as it is given preference, and teams need to really justify to management when they want to use Oracle or other proprietary database technologies. There are some cases when that may be warranted, but in most cases MySQL is good enough.
  1. Moving existing applications from Oracle to MySQL.  Depending on the organization and applications it can happen a couple of different ways. One is the equivalent applications are built from scratch on the new open source technology stack and the old application is retired. The other is only the database is migrated from Oracle to MySQL. Moving the database from Oracle to MySQL might be easy and might be close to a full application rewrite. For example, we see Java applications which often use the database as a simple data store through the ORM framework which can be moved to MySQL easily; on the other hand, applications built with extensive use of advanced stored procedures and Oracle-specific SQL extensions are much harder to move.

The wave of moving to open source database technologies will continue and we’re not alone in thinking that – Gartner believes that by 2018, 70% of new in-house applications will be built on open source database systems.

What are we currently seeing in the MySQL ecosystem? First, many customers tell us that they are looking at hefty price increases for MySQL support subscriptions. Some of the customers which had previously signed 5 year agreements with Sun (at the time it was acquired by Oracle) who are exploring renewing now, see price increases as much as 5x for a comparable environment. This is very understandable considering the pressures Oracle has on the market right now.

The issues, however, go deeper than the price. Many customers are not comfortable trusting Oracle to give them the best possible advice for moving from expensive Oracle to a much less expensive Oracle MySQL database. The conflicts are obvious when the highest financial reward comes to Oracle by proving applications can’t be moved to MySQL or any other open source database.

If you’re choosing MySQL, Oracle is financially interested in having you use the Enterprise Edition, which brings back many of the vendor lock-in issues enterprises are trying to avoid by moving to open source databases. Customers believe Oracle will ensure enterprise-only features are put in use in the applications, making it difficult to avoid renewing at escalating prices.

So what do our customers see in Percona which makes them prefer our support and other services to those of Oracle?

  • We are a great partner if you’re considering moving from the Oracle database to MySQL as we both have years of experience and no conflict of interest.
  • Percona Server, Percona XtraDB Cluster, Percona Xtrabackup and our other software for the MySQL ecosystem is 100% open source, which means we’re not trying to lock you into the “enterprise version” as we work together. Furthermore, many of the features which are only available in MySQL Enterprise Edition are available in the fully open source Percona Server, including audit, backup and authentication.
  • We are focused on solutions for your business, not pushing Percona-branded technology. If you choose to use Percona Server, great! If you are using MySQL, MariaDB, Amazon RDS, etc., that’s great too.

With the continuing trend of moving to open source database management systems the cost pressures on people running proprietary databases will continue to increase, and the only real solution is to accelerate moving to the open source stack. As you do that, you’re better off moving to completely open source technology, such as what is available from Percona, to avoid vendor lock-in. If you’re looking for the partner to help you to assess the migration strategy and execute the move successfully, check for conflicts of interests and ensure the interests of your and your provider are completely aligned.

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Jim Doherty

Jim Doherty has more than 17 years of marketing and engineering experience in technology companies. He has held leadership positions for Ixia, Certes Networks, Cisco Systems, and Ericsson Mobile. Jim also co-authored the "Networking Simplified" book series, with multiple titles including ones on Cisco Networking and WiFi security. He is a former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant, with an electrical engineering degree plus a MBA degree from Duke. Jim and his wife Katie live in Raleigh, NC with their two children Samantha and Conor.

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