Wednesday, 8 October 2008

On Loyalty, Competition and Underdogs

"So, I suppose MySQL's main competitor is Oracle?" is a frequent question I get asked by the press. "Well, we don't really compete heads-on with other databases. We co-exist! Just as an example: Over a third of respondents in an Oracle User Group survey said they also use MySQL", I answer.

The reporter then continues "But everyone has a main competitor. Don't you plan for people to migrate from Oracle to MySQL?". I continue with "Not really. Migrations do happen, but not all that often. MySQL tends to be used in new applications."

"But surely you must have some competitive atmosphere, or equivalent feelings towards Oracle." The reporter never gives up. "Don't you at least internally joke about your relationship with Oracle?".

And that's where I will now have a new answer for whichever reporter nexts goes down that line of reasoning.

So let me take that story from the beginning. My fourteen-year-old son has just started blogging about football, and his second blog entry is about an existential issue involving the moral values of loyalty and competition. After many years as a fan of Germany's incumbent football team Bayern München, and after a not-so-great start of the season for the team, he went to a match with the local arch-rival TSV 1860. The 1860ers are not in the German First League, and they are somewhat of an underdog. And now he's starting to question his loyalty towards Bayern München.

I shared his blog ponderings over email with the group of people formerly known as MySQL GmbH employees, one of whom saw a surprising analogy: Between Bayern München / TSV 1860 and Oracle / MySQL. It was so hilarious, that I dare share it, as a symbol of the type of stories we sometimes circulate internally. My son has two lists, "Why to stay with Bayern München" and "Why to switch to TSV 1860". My colleague translates these football loyalty questions to database choice questions.

The blog is in German (as is my colleagues email), and instead of a complete but somewhat weird Google Translate conversion, I'll here provide a slightly more polished translation (and the Oracle comments by my colleague in parenthesis):

These facts speak for continuing as a Bayern fan (... as an Oracle user):

1. I am still a member (I still use Oracle)
2. A sold-out stadium looks good (Oracle Datacenter looks good)
3. All my Bayern fan gadgets (all my Oracle fan gadgets)
4. The feeling of "Your hatred is our pride" (ditto)
5. German Premier League and Champions League, at least for the time being (ditto)
6. Some good players, such as Ribéry
7. I was always a Red [fan of Bayern], and "conversions" is bad form (I was always a fan of Oracle and ...)

This speaks for a switch to TSV 1860 (... a switch to MySQL):

1. I'll get tickets much easier (MySQL is lots easier to obtain)
2. My school is full of Lions [fans of 1860], I'd have fewer fights (there are so many MySQL Forums with helpful co-developers, even a MySQL Forum on Oracle)
3. The transfer policy of Bayern (the sales policy of Oracle)
4. The atmosphere in the stadium is somewhat better (the atmosphere at the MySQL user's conference is clearly better)
5. Being an underdog feels good
6. More creative fans, including songs (there are creative MySQL songs, too!)
7. Sometimes when Bayern plays, you're the only one who sings in your area of the stadium (plenty of MySQLers sing, even on YouTube!)
8. Frequently, Bayern fans are Bayern fans only "because they always win" (Frequently Oracle fans are Oracle fans and not Open Source fans, "because you're not fired for buying Oracle")

The conclusion, in database terms?

  • MySQL co-exists with other databases, such as Oracle

  • MySQL is often used for web apps in these coexistence scenarios

  • MySQL focuses on applications that scale

  • MySQL has a low TCO

  • Oracle DBAs may want to add MySQL skills to their resume

Links, if you want to pursue the above thoughts:


  1. [...] Diego Maradona’s team was Boca Juniors, the most famous football club of Argentina. I spoke positively of it to a local (one of the “where are you from?” encounters), but I shouldn’t have, as he was cheering for River Plate. Of course, I told him of my son’s dilemma, contemplating whether to swap loyalties from Bayern München to TSV München 1860. [...]

  2. [...] El equipo de Diego Maradona era Boca Juniors, el más famoso club de fútbol de Argentina. He hablado positivamente de ella a un local (uno de los encouentros “¿De dónde vienes?”), pero no debería tener, como fue animando de Río de la Plata. Por supuesto, le dije de el dilema de mi hijo, que contemplo si quiere cambiar su lealtad de Bayern München a TSV München 1860. [...]

  3. [...] Sun Microsystems still is a separate legal entity, practising what’s known as “business as usual“. This is familiar to MySQLers from the time between Sun’s acquisition of MySQL was announced mid-January 2008 to the closing at the end of February 2008. During the period between announcement and closing, we continue to behave as separate entities, even competing with each other. [...]