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MariaDB, a MySQL Alternative, Opens Foundation
By: Terri Wells
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    2012-12-06

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    If you're looking for a good alternative to MySQL, you might want to check out MariaDB. This fork of the popular open source database management system now boasts a foundation to spread the word on how it can help users looking for something tasty that doesn't come with a side of Oracle.

    So what's the specific purpose of this new foundation? According to its website, "the MariaDB Foundation exists to improve database technology, including standards implementation, interoperability with other databases, and building bridges to other types of database such as transactional and NoSQL. To deliver this the Foundation provides technical work in reviewing, merging, testing, and releasing the MariaDB product suite. The Foundation also provides infrastructure for the MariaDB project and the user and developer communities."

    So why, exactly, does this matter? Why is MariaDB worth considering as an alternative to MySQL? To understand that, we need to go back in time. Michael “Monty” Widenius was the original founder of the MySQL project. Sun purchased MySQL back in 2008 for a billion dollars. In 2009, Widenius left MySQL to create his own fork of it; this kind of thing happens somewhat regularly with open source projects. That fork became MariaDB.

    It's worth noting that MariaDB came into existence just four months before Oracle bought Sun. The community surrounding MariaDB is working to maintain high fidelity with MySQL, with the idea that users of the latter can simply do a “drop-in” replacement with the former. Widenius notes that MySQL users who switch to MariaDB will see some real benefits; he insists that MariaDB is faster, more secure and has more features than MySQL.

    Better performance and ease of switching may be reason enough to think about going with MariaDB, but Sergei Golubchik, MariaDB's VP of architecture, cites another reason. He believes that Oracle is beginning to turn MySQL into a closed source program. Regardless of whether that's true, there's something to be said for using a product with a dedicated core team that has been with it for 18 years – and arguably, MariaDB has a greater claim to being that product that MySQL.

    But it's questionable as to how many users will listen to that argument. Steven Vaughan-Nichols quotes analyst and ZDNet columnist Dan Kusnetsky as saying “They face an entrenched community that are already using MySQL and might not see a need to move or even consider an alternative."
     
    That could change over time. Other observers have noted that Oracle has been shabby in its treatment of the community surrounding MySQL. Indeed, you can't actually “buy” a community, as Oracle bought Sun – a fact that the software maker seems to have missed. For any open source project, the product is only as valuable as the community surrounding it – and this is no less true of MySQL than it is of any other open source project. Indeed, Oracle will need to do a better job of nurturing the community, or put itself in the position of making the DBMS less of an open source project. That would leave MariaDB, in effect, as MySQL's successor by default...but it could be a long time before we get there, if ever. The MariaDB Foundation might, at least indirectly, hasten that process.


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