In physics, the law of conservation of energy holds that energy can neither be created or destroyed, it can only be transferred from one form to another. In business terms, this natural law can also apply: do a company wrong and someday that company may come back to bite you on the butt later.
That will never be the official reason why search engine Google is moving all of its Oracle MySQL relational database systems to MySQL’s forked descendant MariaDB, but even the unintentional, karmic implications against Oracle are blindingly obvious.
After all, Oracle has spent a lot of time and legal effort over the past few years attempting to establish that Google had committed copyright infringement by copying portions of Java code into Google’s Android operating system, including 37 application programming interfaces that tap into the Java programming language. Google won that in federal court, though Oracle has appealed. Still, Google apparently has a long memory.
The revelation that Google was dumping MySQL for the MariaDB database came from Google Senior Systems Engineer Jeremy Cole in a presentation at the Extremely Large Databases conference at Stanford University this week.
According to The Register, Cole revealed during the presentation that Google was working with the MariaDB Foundation to patch and update MariaDB 10.0 and get it ready for Google to migrate thousands of MySQL instances to MariaDB.
“We’re running primarily on [MySQL] 5.1 which is a little outdated, and so we’re moving to MariaDB 10.0 at the moment,” Cole said…
Google later confirmed the plan in a statement to The Register:
Google’s MySQL team is in the process of moving internal users of MySQL at Google from MySQL 5.1 to MariaDB 10.0. Google’s MySQL team and the SkySQL MariaDB team are looking forward to working together to advance the reliability and feature set of MariaDB.
The work to make this migration apparently began at the beginning of the year, but outward signs of the plan didn’t get noticed until last month, when it was noticed that Google was assigning a full-time engineer to work at the MariaDB Foundation.
At the time of this move, speculation focused on Google trying to strengthen MariaDB in order to keep diversity within the MySQL community alive. Since Oracle gained control of the MySQL database in 2010 when it purchased Sun Microsystems, the MySQL database community has had to contend with an Oracle that admittedly was putting in some solid technical work to the popular open-source database, but letting very few contributions from outside Oracle into the MySQL codebase.
This frustrated users of MySQL who wanted to see their changes placed into the main line of MySQL development (known as the “trunk”) as well, and not have every technical change within MySQL dependent on the whims of Oracle.
Bullet points on Cole’s slides from his presentation laid out his (and apparently Google’s) position on Oracle MySQL:
Continuing to do good development, but often without much public visibility until release.
Ignores bugs, feedback, communication from community
This lack of community participation was a big part of the reason why MySQL creator Monty Widenius forked the MariaDB project away from MySQL in the first place: to give MySQL users a version of the MySQL database where many could contribute.
According to Cole, Google will specifically be migrating to an in-house branch of MariaDB 10.0, which incorporates Google-specific changes and will be the equivalent of MySQL 5.6. This is not a true fork, though, as it will still maintain a code-sharing relationship with the MariaDB trunk. Cole told the audience that Google was going this way so they could still maintain absolute control over the development of the MariaDB branch.
These are all perfectly valid reasons for Google to move away from MySQL, which has seen a steadily increasing declination across all of its user base since Oracle took the project over.
Even though it’s easy to suggest that this mass migration from MySQL to MariaDB is some sort of comeuppance for Oracle, the truth probably lies in the history of Oracle’s handling of the MySQL community to date—Oracle has made its bed of spikes with the MySQL community, and now it has to lie in it. And this mass migration of thousands of MySQL servers will make a lot of current and future MySQL customers take a good, hard look at alternatives like MariaDB.