Users say Sun needs to fix what's broken at MySQL

Sun's acquisition will bring it an open-source database -- and some unhappy customers

In agreeing this week to pay $1 billion for MySQL AB, Sun Microsystems Inc. said it hopes to make MySQL's open-source database more attractive to enterprise users. But Sun has a lot of work to do, according to some MySQL users.

And it isn't just technical fixes that are needed, they said. Although Sun described MySQL as "an open-source icon," it also will have to mend fences with users who are unhappy about the database vendor's sales tactics and claim that it has ignored their development suggestions.

For instance, within hours of the proposed acquisition's announcement on Wednesday, Don MacAskill, CEO and "chief geek" at SmugMug Inc., said in a blog posting that he is "seriously considering" not renewing the online photo-sharing service's platinum-level MySQL Enterprise support contract. "I probably wouldn't pay for MySQL as it stands today," he wrote.

In an interview, MacAskill said MySQL has performance and concurrency issues when it's paired with InnoDB, the most widely used storage engine for the database. In particular, the problems affect systems with multicore processors. "That's turning out to be a pretty major scalability roadblock for a lot of us," he said.

Google Inc. and other MySQL users have created patches designed to fix the performance problems. But MacAskill said that the open-source vendor has yet to add the patches to the database, despite requests that it do so from him and other users.

"I often wonder why they haven't been accepted and just pushed into the MySQL release," he said, adding that it will be "in [Sun's] best interest to see MySQL get really good at concurrency really fast."

MySQL officials said the patch question is now Sun's to answer -- even though the acquisition isn't expected to be completed until late this quarter or early in the second quarter.

A Sun spokeswoman said today via e-mail that it's "too early to discuss specific plans" for updating the database. "What we can say," she added, "is that we actively engage with both our customers and developer base to hear their feedback regarding the direction of product plans and services, and will continue to do so."

There are plenty of other things that also need fixing in MySQL, according to a blog posting by Jeremy Cole, a former user of the database at Yahoo Inc. who now is a MySQL consultant at Proven Scaling LLC.

"There are a lot of areas where MySQL has been lacking for a long time, and the power users have been either crying in their beer or doing the work themselves," Cole wrote. For instance, he cited problems with the database's replication, logging and internal memory-allocation features.

In addition, Cole criticized MySQL's sales and marketing team and said that the company's development model for MySQL Enterprise is "broken."

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's CEO and president, said during a teleconference yesterday that the biggest impediment to MySQL's growth has been its inability "to give peace of mind to a global company that wants to put MySQL into mission-critical deployments." Schwartz added that the open-source database will benefit from Sun's broader enterprise reach.

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