Mysql4all Blog

Ivan Zoratti's blog on MySQL and around

So Much Work To Do!

with 10 comments

Few weeks ago I was invited to a dinner in Manchester with a group of CIOs. It was the occasion to talk about Open Source and the use of Open Source Software in the Enterprise.

The conversation went on for quite a while on what is OSS, why OSS is relevant for an Enterprise and how a relatively large organisation can get benefit from OSS. To me, it was time for a sanity check.

When you work in the OSS world, as many of us do, you tend to forget the fears, the doubts and all in all the deep differences between companies who have embraced OSS and others who have not. I am not referring to Linux as a server platform here, since Linux distributions are nowadays recognised as a great server environment and people tend to forget it is OSS. I refer to OSS in general and to the way OSS is used by developers, IT professionals and end users.

Back to my original subject, i.e. the dinner with the CIOs, I will skip the details of a good Brit meal enjoyed by an Italian who is quite fussy when it is a matter of good cuisine, adding the fact that he is a vegetarian. Sticking to the main point, the conversation went on for quite a while on some basic topics. So, the first question I asked the audience was regarding their experience with OSS. Some CIOs mentioned Firefox, some others Linux, others had in mind the last version of a famous media player that could play any kind of media file, contrary to other closed source products.

My main question to the attendees was: what are your feelings about OSS? Well, many attendees were scared by OSS. They relate open source to some blokes in a garage or to a nerd seated all day (after school) in front of a computer in his bedroom. Too much television and blockbusters, I would say. So, where is quality? Where is the stability and robustness of the code?

I tried to lead the attendees to a ground that could be well understood. Take Microsoft for example. I used the Microsoft vs Mozilla classical comparison: which one is more stable, more secure? Would you say that Internet Explorer is more advanced than Firefox? Does it provide a better usability or compatibility? It was easy to find an agreement here and many people revealed that Firefox is their favourite browser, but they did not consider it as an Open Source Software.

There were some other obvious examples, like the stability, performance and scalability provided by Windows Servers vs Linux. “Would you be scared to install a Linux server in your data centre today?”, that was the question. “No, not anymore”, was the answer in unison. So, from the browser, to the server, you can easily move to a more suitable ground, at least for me, which is MySQL. We have estimated 12M+ MySQL server installations and 16 of the 20 most visited web sites use MySQL as their main relational database, probably generating more transactions than the 16 most important banks in the world. Would you be scare to use MySQL as a relational database? The attendees were still not convinced, but at least I instilled some interest.

Another interesting point was raised when we talked about the lifecycle of OSS. Some attendees believed that OSS is more likely to disappear after few months or years, whilst closed source software is more likely to stay around to longer time. So, here is another question for my audience: “have you ever used products like Vignette, Broadvision, Interwoven or Bluemartini?”. Sad faces stared the empty plates, trying to remember the last time they saw the announcement of a new version of what’s left from these famous brands. Then I asked if they heard about projects running on Apache, JBoss, Drupal or Hibernate in their organisations. A mix of different answers revolted the sad faces to cautious smiles. The message was clear: no matter if the software is open or not, the more the software is used, the more it is likely to stay and be adopted for a long time.

At the end of this experience that I wanted to share, one might wonder what is the lesson to learn here. Well, it is pretty simple.

There is so much to do!

This is the reason why I am [still] so excited to work with MySQL. We have an incredible Community, with amazingly skilled contributors. But in my opinion there is a gap, a broken link between OSS and the Enterprise. This gap is particularly visible with MySQL. This is my main focus and where I want to be. Educate the Enterprise to the use of OSS, with focus on MySQL, of course. The more we attract the Enterprise in a virtuous circle, the more this circle can expand and everybody can benefit from this expansion.

So, enjoy the ride, there is more to come!


Written by Ivan Zoratti

26 August 2010 at 6:29 pm

10 Responses

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  1. BIND is another unsung hero of open source. BIND could be considered even more popular than Firefox, Linux, or MySQL, if you consider that every computer that uses DNS probably queries a BIND server regularly.

    Bill Karwin

    26 August 2010 at 8:46 pm

    • Sure! One point I made is that in any software the Enterprise use, any closed source software application or solution, does have some open source software inside.

      Ivan Zoratti

      26 August 2010 at 9:39 pm

  2. What made them reluctant about MySQL?

    Mark Callaghan

    26 August 2010 at 9:11 pm

    • Well, they were not “reluctant”, they genuinely did not know what they could do with MySQL. They knew it is a relational database, some even knew it is the “M” in “LAMP”, but they have never considered it for their applications. That is the reason why I think we should educate them. CIO magazines and analysts’ reports are not enough.

      Ivan Zoratti

      26 August 2010 at 9:37 pm

      • I wonder: Do these people decide on which software to use? If yes, why?


        27 August 2010 at 7:12 am

      • Yes, they do, or at least they are part of the process. It’s the job of CIOs and IT Managers: they manage the IT infrastructure and they define, or at least they contribute to the definition of the infrastructure. It is important to define a set of products to use, maintain and support, otherwise the infrastructure would become unmanageable.

        Ivan Zoratti

        27 August 2010 at 11:32 am

  3. Nice writeup, Ivan – thanks for sharing your experiences! I agree – there is still a lot of work to be done for us FOSS advocates 🙂 Keep up the good work!


    27 August 2010 at 12:27 pm

  4. With all due respect, I don’t think this requires FOSS advocacy. I will guess that open versus closed source isn’t an issue for the typical CIO. The want stuff that helps them run a business.

    So, how do they view MySQL as a solution?

    Mark Callaghan

    27 August 2010 at 5:25 pm

    • Mark,

      I agree with you: it’s not an open vs closed source issue, it’s mainly ignorance of what you can get from open source software.

      Referring to the audience that night, their main infrastructure consisted of ERP systems, and we all know that MySQL does not fit there. Some CIOs had internal unsupported wikis and non mission critical applications running on MySQL but for all that was related to mission critical systems, they had one or two approved databases.

      Their general view was that if OSS products provide the same features and quality at lower (total) cost, they are happy to consider them. Their specific view on MySQL was that the infrastructure relies on one or two certified databases and mission critical applications must be developed with those DBs. Everything else would go unsupported, off the radar and probably even unapproved. My team’s job is to work together with these CIOs to verify and demonstrate that MySQL can be certified and used for what it does best, i.e. as an online database.

      Ivan Zoratti

      27 August 2010 at 6:00 pm

  5. Thanks for an excellent summary.

    Mark Callaghan

    27 August 2010 at 7:46 pm

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