March 26, 2015

MariaDB: The Differences, Expectations, and Future

MariaDB: The Differences, Expectations, and FutureLearning MySQL and MariaDB, Monty Widenius, one of the founders of MySQL and MariaDB, graciously contributed a Foreword. It's about six pages long and an interesting read for those who are familiar with MySQL and MariaDB. Of particular interest to newcomers to MariaDB, is the excerpt in this article on his perspective of MariaDB and his vision for its future, as well as MySQL.

Excerpt from Foreword of Learning MySQL and MariaDB (O'Reilly 2015)

"Regarding my hopes and expectations for the MariaDB database system, I’m working at the foundation to ensure that we get more companies actively involved in the development of MariaDB. That’s something we lacked during the history of MySQL. We want to develop something that will satisfy everyone—not only now, but for the future. To do that, we need more organizations involved. I’d like to see 10 or 15 significant companies involved. That’s something they’ve managed to do at FOSS, the Free and Open Source Software Foundation. They have several companies that assist in development. That’s their strength. Their weakness is that they don’t have one company coordinating the development of software. My hope is that the MariaDB Foundation will act as a coordinator for the effort, but with many companies helping. That would benefit everyone. It is this collaborative effort that I don’t expect from Oracle regarding MySQL. That’s the difference and advantage of MariaDB. With Oracle, there’s no certainty in the future of the open source code of MySQL. With MariaDB, by design it will always be open source and everything they do will be open source. The foundation is motivated and truly want to be more closely aligned with open source standards.

"The MariaDB Foundation was created to be a sanctuary. If something goes wrong in the MariaDB Corporation, the Foundation can guarantee that the MariaDB software will remain open—always. That’s its main role. The other role is to ensure that companies that want to participate in developing MariaDB software can do so on equal terms as anyone else because the foundation is there. So if someone creates and presents a patch for MariaDB software, they can submit it to be included in the next release of MariaDB. With many other open source projects, it’s difficult to get a patch included in the software. You have to struggle and learn how to conform to their coding style. And it’s even harder to get the patch accepted. In the case of MySQL with Oracle, it could be blocked by Oracle. The situation is inherently different with MariaDB."

"For example, if Percona, a competitor of MariaDB Corporation, wants to add a patch to MariaDB software that will help their background program XtraBackup to run better, but the management of MariaDB Corporation doesn’t like that it would be helping their competitor, it doesn’t matter. MariaDB Corporation has no say in which patches are adopted. If the Foundation accepts the patch, it’s added to the software. The Foundation review patches on their technical merits only, not based on any commercial agenda."

"The open source projects that survived are those that were created for practical reasons. MySQL wasn’t in the beginning the best database solution. People complained that it didn’t have many features at that time. However, it was always practical. It solved problems and met the needs of developers and others. And it did so better than other solutions that were supposedly better choices. We did that by actively listening to people and with a willingness to make changes to solve problems. Our goal with MariaDB is to get back to those roots and be more interactive with customers and users. By this method, we can create something that might not be perfect for everyone, but pretty good."

"As for the future, if you want MariaDB to be part of your professional life, I can assure you that we will do everything possible to support and develop the software. We have many brilliant people who will help to ensure MariaDB has a long future."

"In the near term, I think that MariaDB version 10.1 will play a large role in securing the future of MariaDB. It offers full integration with Galera cluster—an add-on for MariaDB for running multiple database servers for better performance—because of the new encryption features. That’s important. In recent months, all other technologies have been overshadowed with security concerns because the systems of some governments and major companies have been hacked. Having good encryption could have stopped most of those attacks from achieving anything. These improvements will change the perception that open source databases are not secure enough. Many commercial database makers have said that MySQL and MariaDB are not secure, and they have been able to convince some businesses to choose a commercial solution instead as a result. With MariaDB 10.1, though, we can prove easily that their argument is not true. So that’s good. If you’ve chosen to use MariaDB, you can make this point when you’re asked about the difference between MySQL and MariaDB, and you can feel good about your choice over the long term for this same reason."

"Looking at the future, many companies are leery about using commercial database software because they don’t know for sure if the compiled code contains backdoors for accessing the data or if there is some special way in which the software is using encryption that could allow hackers to get at their databases. On the other hand, countries like Russia and China question whether open source databases are secure. The only way we can assure them of that is to provide access to the source code, and that means they must use open source software. So I do hope and expect that in the future we will see MySQL and MariaDB growing rapidly in these countries and similar organizations, because we can address their concerns when commercial solutions cannot. Ironically, a more transparent software system is preferred by a less transparent government. It’s better not only for less transparent organizations, but also for those that want to keep their databases more secure. This applies to an organization that wants to keep their data private and doesn’t want someone else such as a hacker, or a competitor, a government to have access to their data."

—Monty Widenius in Málaga, Spain, January 2015

Learning MySQL and MariaDB may be pre-ordered now. Booksellers will start shipping the first week of April 2015.

About Russell Dyer

Russell works for MariaDB Corporation at the manager of the Library. He has been a writer and editor for about fifteen years now, writing books and articles on MariaDB and related software. Most notably, he wrote for O'Reilly Media, "MySQL in a Nutshell" and "Learning MySQL and MariaDB".

Read all posts by Russell Dyer