Sunday, September 25, 2016

MySQL at Oracle Open World 2016

MySQL is a growing presence at Oracle Open World. While most of the headlines belong to the main products, where Oracle services are aiming at world domination, MySQL shared the spotlight, as it was announced to be part of Oracle database cloud. It seems a logical move for Oracle: after all the effort to make MySQL 5.7 the biggest release ever, it stands to reason that it is offered as a competitive feature in its own database as a service.

With this offer, Oracle is applying enterprise pricing and methodologies to a target of emerging companies. MySQL in the Oracle cloud differs from the competition by a few key points:

  • It's only MySQL 5.7. While this is the most advanced MySQL server available, users with existing deployments may exercise caution before adopting this cloud service. Companies that are starting now, instead, may take advantage of using the latest and greatest.
  • It's MySQL Enterprise edition, with a wealth of additional monitoring and management tools that are missing in other cloud offerings.
  • Unlike some popular competitors, it includes access to the server host, allowing DBAs to enable plugins, fine tune the deployment, and explore the operating system in addition to the database.
  • It includes Oracle support.

Time will tell if this offering will be successful. It may not appeal to all the users, but there is surely a category of power users who can take advantage of these features.

The surprises of the MySQL keynote did not stop at the cloud. We had already seen, one week before the conference, that MySQL 8.0 was released, with many juicy features. What came unexpected are two announcements:

  • MySQL group replication, a product that has been living in MySQL Labs for quite a while, was declared "release candidate" despite lacking documentation and being released in a format that discourages adoption, except from diehard hackers.
  • Another product is been released, again in the labs, with an ambitious mission. The MySQL InnoDB cluster is based on group replication and wants to be a 15-minute deployment of high-availability and scalable system, thanks to an enhanced version of MySQL Shell (the same used for the document store. Its feature set are exciting, but what we have seen in the demos suggests that the product is still in the early stages of development.

With these moves, Oracle is showing two paths of MySQL development:

  • in the main path, which has produced the GA of MySQL 5.5, 5.6, and 5.7, the MySQL team is showing the positive influence of Oracle engineering, with focus on security, performance, and stability.
  • in a parallel course, which started last April with the announcement of MySQL document store and its related shell, the team wants to introduce new features to a GA release as plugins, with the reasoning that the main release will not be touched (thus avoiding the taboo of altering a stable product) but users are free to enable plugins and unleash new functionalities.

The mix of traditional and agile releases are provoking exciting thoughts, albeit moderated by the fear of using together experimental code in a GA deployment.

The methodology of these releases is also baffling. It is unclear how mature is the document store. The plugin comes with the server, and it is accompanied by an huge set of documentation, which implies that it has been designed extensively and tested internally for a while, but the main tool for the feature, mysql shell is labeled as development preview: not very encouraging. On the other hand, the latest plugin addition, the MySQL group replication, which has been declared of release candidate quality, is still in the labs (no plugin in the server release), and without documentation.

All considered, while it is clear that Oracle is putting an enormous engineering effort into growing MySQL, I have the feeling that the replication features have been neglected and the announcement of group replication mixed fortunes confirms me in this belief.

The conference was useful to me. I had the chance of meeting many Oracle engineers and users, and discuss technical and community matters at length. My own presentation, a two-hour tutorial on MySQL operations in Docker was highly satisfactory, as it proved to be an interesting topic that was actively discussed by the audience.

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