Can MySQL succeed in Canada?

Swedish open source database, MySQL, plans this week at its user conference to unveil a new software feature and partner program, raising the question about how well it’s faring against proprietary database sellers.

At the urging

of its customers, MySQL is adding new high-end enterprise features to its database that improve the product’s availability and reliability of applications, said Alex Roedling, senior product manager for MySQL in Palo Alto, Calif.

MySQL doubled in size this year in terms of customers, employees and revenues. It has five million installations and 5,000 paid customers.

Although Roedling cannot comment on the organization’s plans in Canada, it has several customers in the country including oil-drilling instrument firm Pason Systems and the B.C. Cancer Agency.

IDC Canada’s Warren Shiau said MySQL won’t be successful taking on owners of proprietary databases unless some of these major vendors back them. “”This is the same thing that applied to all open source,”” said Shiau, a Toronto-based software analyst. “”It’s not just the product alone. It’s not just the cost of the product alone.””

A few years ago, open source vendors were selling a product that didn’t generate the revenues from licensing that a vendor like Oracle or IBM could expect from selling a server operating system or a database, he said. He said a company with fewer resources and less profitability derived from the product would find it hard to build an organization with an extensive support arm — something that open source specialists realized when few enterprises wanted to adopt their products.

When big enterprise vendors like HP and Oracle backed certain of the server OS Linux distributions, particularly Red Hat, and provided consulting support and resources, it became “”an inflection point for adoption”” of Linux.

For its part, Microsoft Canada has no plans to work with MySQL, according to Darren Massel, product manager for the software firm’s SQL Server. Nor can it comment on specific cases in which it’s run into competition against the European open source database.

Massel said most of its discussions with customers about databases focuses on SQL Server, which Microsoft says has enjoyed particularly strong usage rates in Canadian organizations. Microsoft-conducted surveys report adoption rates of small,48.8 per cent and medium-sized, 45.3 per cent.

Microsoft in January announced a SQL Server 2000 reporting service, an offering that’s being bundled into the SQL Server package that allows companies to develop and deliver enterprise reports. It’s also gearing up to release SQL Server 2005.

Microsoft Canada’s senior manager of platform strategy, Alec Taylor, is unconvinced about the rise of open source databases. He points to a recent Yankee Group study that said migrating to an open source database would be expensive and hard to maintain. “”There’s a been a lot of hype about open source, but it’s just not taking hold in the market”” because of hidden costs around availability of applications.

IDC Canada, meanwhile, conducted a survey during the first quarter about the adoption of open source databases. Its findings show that 18 per cent of IT respondents across multiple industries said they’ve deployed an open source database, and 10 per cent may deploy one over the next year.

“”There’s a fair enough chance”” that companies choosing to roll out an open source database will invest in MySQL, the most popular one in the world, said Shiau.

He’s surprised by the results and expected no more than 10 per cent of organizations to have adopted open source. With little context around the results, IDC doesn’t know whether the deployment of open source has been widespread throughout the enterprise or whether it’s been rolled out on a test basis.

“”It may indicate the adoption for open source databases is actually moving on a curve that’s quicker than we thought,”” said Shiau. “”MySQL is not a from-left-field product anymore that’s entirely identified with the IT department pushing something for the sake of being open source.””

He said many major vendors like SAP have MySQL built into its product line and so indirectly push down into mid-market companies.

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