The most significant development in the next major release of MySQL's open-source database, MySQL 6.0, will be the inclusion of the vendor's homegrown Falcon storage engine, according to company chief executive Marten Mickos.
This week at MySQL's user conference in California, the company demonstrated a new alpha version of Falcon. The first alpha release debuted in January.
MySQL developed Falcon in response to Oracle's surprise acquisition of Finnish startup Innobase in October 2005. Oracle's purchase was seen by many observers as a predatory strike against MySQL, which bundles Innobase's Inno database storage engine with its database. The acquisition also prompted MySQL to open up its database storage application programming interface (API) to third parties so companies could create their own storage engines.
Mickos did not provide dates for the beta release of Falcon or when MySQL 6.0 and the general availability version of Falcon will appear. MySQL reached a tipping point with Falcon's performance capabilities last week after the team developing the storage engine eliminated priority-one bugs from the software, he said.
MySQL is currently delivering the fruits of last year's focus on internal development, Mickos said. During 2006, the vendor worked on Falcon, its database monitoring and advisory service, formerly code-named "Merlin", and a project to fix bugs and improve the quality of its code.
Mickos said he definitely intends to take MySQL public, but added there is no timeline for an initial public offering (IPO). Though an important event in the company's evolution, Mickos called it "just a step in our growth". While going public might not cut much ice with MySQL's existing customer base, he believes the additional comfort factor an IPO can provide for those wary of an open-source startup will make more new customers available to the vendor.
Another way of growing customer numbers, particularly those willing to pay for support, is through partnerships with other vendors. Mickos sees partners as key to the ongoing success of MySQL. One of the major announcements at the conference was a partnership with rival database player IBM. The tie-up will allow users of IBM's System i servers to run MySQL's database and let IBM and its resellers sell service and support subscriptions for MySQL. At the same time, the System i version of IBM's DB2 database will be certified as a storage engine for MySQL.
MySQL's indirect sales are small, but within five years, they could account for between 40% and 50% of the company's total sales, Mickos said. While larger customers will probably always want to deal directly with MySQL, small and medium enterprises may be interested in a less hands-on relationship, he added.
Over time, Mickos also expects MySQL will sell more third-party software in addition to the two products it offers so far – Inno database and Jasper for MySQL: OEM Edition, a repackaging of open-source business intelligence software vendor JasperSoft's reporting tools.
One important contributor to MySQL's bottom line is the company's decision to set up its first vertical business unit aimed at telecommunications companies. The unit is focused on MySQL Cluster, a database engine based on technology MySQL acquired in 2003 when it purchased the Alzato division from Ericsson.
"We made a wild bet four years ago and it turned out better than we expected," Mickos said. MySQL did a lot of work to make the software easier to use and it's now being deployed by companies including Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel Networks. MySQL Cluster is also being used on some web sites, as the telecom and internet worlds converge.
MySQL may look into focusing on other vertical markets in one or two years, according to Mickos. Currently, he sees only the telecom industry having its own specific needs, with other customers the company serves such as Web 2.0 and on-demand operations sharing a lot of common requirements.
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