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Following the news last week that Microsoft is porting its hugely popular SQL Server database software into the open source Linux operating system, rival relational database vendor MariaDB had some strong opinions on the industry and Microsoft’s place in it.

New MariaDB CEO Michael Howard described Microsoft’s decision to bring SQL Server database product to the open-source Linux operating systems as a “sad reflection of where Microsoft is” as the big vendor gives up its proprietary distribution model and has to fight in the open source market.

Rival vendors

Not being locked into a single distribution model, such as Windows, is a key selling point for the open source MariaDB solution, according to Howard. He says: “SQL Server and all proprietary fixtures will never have the ubiquitous distribution we have. Will never have the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack we have. The distribution they had through Windows they will never have again with database.” 

In other words, Howard believes the genie is out of the lamp for Microsoft now and the market will decide which database product they want to use now that the distribution to various operating systems is ubiquitous.

Howard says MariaDB has the advantage of being on the crest of a wave that is seeing more and more companies move to open source solutions. “The ultimate decision is around being locked into a proprietary infrastructure and most organisations are moving to open source, and that is strategic because of the [security] threats and [business] opportunities we all have.”

Relying on the big vendors to respond to the fast-moving “algorithmic economy” just isn’t in the best interest of businesses according to Howard. “We can’t just rely on a single set of product managers or engineers in a single company that doesn’t have perspective […] so the special part about MariaDB and the open source mandate is we are inclusive of our own ideas and communities.

“Not to denigrate or criticise or de-position all the features they have, they are all great databases, but that’s not what the world is looking for. It wants relevant features and innovation that reflects the opportunities and threats we are dealing with.”

“A company of a given size will not be able to rely on a Satya [Nardella] or Larry [Ellison] to make decisions on their behalf. Look at Oracle and Larry missed the boat completely on cloud.”

Growing fast

MariaDB may be growing fast, reaching twelve million users this year according to Howard, but they are still some way off the big three of Microsoft, Oracle and MySQL in terms of actual market share. Gartner places MariaDB as the best placed open source challenger to Oracle and Microsoft in its Magic Quadrant for operational database management systems.

In terms of actual market share Howard said: “The growth of MariaDB over last few years has seen us go from around 100,000 to twelve million, and that’s in the last couple of years. We are no doubt the fastest growing database in the industry.”

The new CEO

MariaDB secured a significant round of funding in January as it continues to grow, pulling in a $9m round led by Intel Capital. Around the same time it hired former C9 and Greenplum executive Michael Howard to become the CEO.

Howard told ComputerworldUK what excited him most about the role: “I’ve been in the database business since the beginning of my career, so I kind of use the term manifest destiny, in terms of taking everything I have learned and amalgamating that into things I want to build and do. MariaDB had an exceptional number of attributes to work with. It is my canvas.”

The first major move of his tenure was the spring 2016 release of MariaDB enterprise. This release looked to solidify MariaDB’s enterprise credentials with added security and performance features. These features include: the ability to defend data against application and network-level attacks, better support for faster development of high-performance applications, and higher service levels. The release also made improvements to availability, with connection pooling, automatic failover, and integration of Galera multi-master cluster technology.

So, what’s next? “Even though I’m arrogant I have to keep some things to myself,” said Howard in a move to avoid discussing specific features. “What you will see comes in three parts of the current release: Performance, high availability and security.  These are all primary for the mission critical expectations of customers, across all sorts of apps. I felt very strongly that these bass notes need to come out immediately before the high notes you will see the rest of the year.”