Interview: Karen Tegan Padir, MySQL VP, On This Week's MySQL Conference

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 24, 2009

As news and analysis about the future of MySQL under Oracle made the rounds this week, the annual MySQL Conference and Expo also took place in Silicon Valley. New versions of MySQL arrived and were announced, and we asked Karen Tegan Padir, Sun's VP of MySQL and Software Infrastructure, several questions about where MySQL and open source are headed. While Oracle's plans may be different from Sun's, and the acquisition wasn't up for discussion, Karen shed some light on what's important in the new versions, and how Sun wants to keep MySQL's direction simple.

OStatic: What were the highlights of this week's MySQL conference?

Wow – a lot. There was an amazing amount of stuff packed into the four days. Besides the 120 keynotes, sessions and tutorials, there was a community-run un-conference, a partner conference, exhibit hall with more than 50 vendors and FOSS projects, Drizzle Day, and any number of improvised "Birds of a Feather" sessions and late-night hack-a-thons.

Sun's biggest news is MySQL 5.4, a new version which brings huge performance and scalability gains to MySQL database applications right out-of-the-box, without modifying your code. We have a preview version of it available for download now. We want it to be the fastest and highest quality release of MySQL ever, so we need people's feedback.

We also have a new version of our MySQL Cluster high-availability database, as well as greater interoperability between MySQL and Sun's other software, systems, storage and cloud offerings.

OStatic: In a recent survey on open source done by North Bridge Partners, respondents named databases as the number one product category where they foresee open source being disruptive over the next several years. You probably agree with that. Why is it?

Open source is so disruptive because it places control squarely into the collective community. The great thing is that after years of software companies saying that their customers' needs come first, boy, that is never going to be more true than right now. There is certainly still great financial opportunity for tomorrow's ISVs – but they are going to have to understand two things very well: the power of community and delivering amazing customer service.

We see these changes not just happening in the database market but across the whole industry.

OStatic: Jonathan Schwartz has mentioned on his blog several times that people at the departmental level of companies are deploying and using MySQL on their own, without any decree or directives from IT departments. Is this happening, and what are the implications of that?

Absolutely, we see this happening everywhere. MySQL and other open source technologies are adopted virally and are used in smaller applications. But what happens as these applications become wildly successful, they suddenly become more and more mission critical. What we find is that enterprises are now having to support these applications and are looking at Sun to provide this support.

OStatic: What are you working on to improve MySQL?

It's actually very simple. MySQL's main goals have always been around high performance, reliability, and ease-of-use. I will continue asking the engineering team to focus on those themes – as with MySQL 5.4. Additionally, we also clearly need to improve how easy it is for our own community to participate in MySQL's development (see below).

OStatic: Can you provide any anecdotal points about large organizations successfully using MySQL?

Well -- just this week at our conference, I handed out the annual MySQL Application-of-the-Year Awards to three of our bluest-chip customers: Alcatel-Lucent, Symantec and

But one of the most telling enterprise anecdotes is the very large, very popular Web property that wasn't a paying customer. One day their entire site crashed. It took them six or seven hours to figure things out – at a cost of millions to their business. They then called for our assistance -- thinking that it might be a MySQL problem -- and we helped them track it down. It turned out to have been triggered by a minor routine operating system upgrade that someone had done the night before. Even though it was not database-related, it could've been prevented had they been using our MySQL Enterprise Monitor tool, which they are now doing.

OStatic: How open is the development process for MySQL?

Since MySQL's very inception, its been largely developed by a core group of internal developers. Perhaps this was necessary initially, because a database kernel was a pretty complicated thing a decade ago. But now, we need to disrupt ourselves because clearly times have changed. Our community now has the skills and they want in! So, this week in my keynote, I announced changes designed to further open up MySQL's community contribution process. Details can be found here.

Our MySQL Drizzle project is a great example of how we can do better. It still has Sun employees heavily involved in its development, but its also got a much healthier percentage of outside contributors as well. It's been very rewarding to see how fast things are developing and growing around it.

OStatic: What do you think are the biggest barriers to adoption of open source in business? Lack of support? Lack of evangelism and marketing? Lack of training?

I don't think it's any of those things, I just think it's just a matter of time. I worked at Red Hat for several years. When I worked there, conventional wisdom said that Linux was a toy, that it wasn't reliable or ready for mission-critical deployment. People sure aren't saying that anymore!