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November 2005
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January 2006

Is LAMP growing at Java's Expense?

There's an interesting article in BusinessWeek by Steve Hamm "Java?  It's So Nineties" which posits that LAMP's rise in popularity may be coming at Java's expense.  While there are plenty of shops that continue to use Java, especially on the backend, I do think Java, or rather J2EE, is a somewhat specialized technology in the Enterprise. Typically J2EE application servers are deployed on the most highly scaled transactional systems, but not on a lot of the "bread and butter" tactical IT applications that need to be built.  Outside of this, Java has had limited success on the desktop and for front end applications.

Peter Yared, CEO of ActiveGrid, has launched his company specifically to help provide additional tools to facilitate scale-out of LAMP based applications, in effect, bringing some of J2EE's horse power into a more mainstream and rapidly growing market.  And whether Java is flat or declining, it is certainly the case that the LAMP stack, PHP, Perly and Python are growing like wildfire.  My bet is that PHP will be the Visual Basic of the 21st century.  It won't always get the respect that the more theoretically "pure" languages get, but it gets the job done and that counts most with the people who use it, just as VB was the language of choice for a much larger pool of developers than used C++.  (And believe me, it pains me to say that since I think Delphi was an even better choice!)

When I was in the Java tools and infrastructure space working for M7 (subsequently acquired by BEA), I noticed many corporate customers found J2EE in its full glory to be overly complex.  Boatloads of customers used simpler JSP pages, and open source software like Tomcat, Hibernate and other technologies to make Java more practical. I'm not sure if there's a causal relationship between J2EE complexity and the rise of LAMP, but I do see an awful lot of new companies who are building very sophisticated "scale-out" applications on the LAMP stack.  There's a whole generation of developers schooled in LAMP who are building phenomenally scalable web sites like Flickr, MySpace, the FaceBook and thousands of others.   

From my perspective, I think Java continues to play an important role in the IT world, especially among large organizations that have a history of building custom infrastructure such as in the financial sector and telecommunications industry.  At MySQL we don't take a stand on the various platform wars.  I don't think there is a single "universal" platform any more than there's a single perfect programming language. I'm equally happy that people deploy MySQL on LAMP, on Java and on .Net.  They are all good platforms and each serves its purpose. 

A while back I saw ActiveGrid CEO Peter Yared speak at the OSBC conference in Boston and he did an excellent job pitching his company to a skeptical group of Wall Street CIOs.  I understand why CIOs can be unwilling to invest in unproven technology.  But the LAMP stack has already been proven hundreds of times over in terms of scalability, performance and reliability.  And Peter's been on the bleeding edge a few times, and he's seen up front the pros and cons of J2EE.  Given Peter's track record, I wouldn't bet against him. 


MySQL Wins Editor's Choice in Road Test

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Builder.au has selected MySQL 5.0 as the editor's choice in their recent road test of databases comparing MySQL, SQL Server, DB2 and Oracle.  Hat's off to the MySQL development team for making this happen.  We're very proud of all of the new capabilities in MySQL 5.0 and it's nice to see the hard work recognized, especially when compared to some pretty stiff competition.  Here are a few select quotes:

  • "Release 5.0 of MySQL is really taking it to the Oracle and DB2 with advanced features such as cluster support and fault tolerance and in most other departments the features run head to head with the competition. Non-SQL junkies can take heart with the GUIs dramatically reducing the reliance on the CLI, bringing administration and configuration within the realms of the novice. MySQL V5.0 is a compelling product and it is hard to argue against its nomination for the Editor's Choice award."
  • "Now where other vendors offer a free version of their software, it is inevitably a nobbled version with support for only a single CPU, memory restrictions, database size restrictions, or they include a performance throttle to ensure sales of the higher end products from the same vendor are not eroded.   MySQL has none of these problems or enforced limitations as is evident by many large deployments around the globe."
  • "MySQL runs the entire gamut in terms of hardware supported and can reside in as little as a 64MB Flash Card and 16MB of RAM as an embedded application all the way up to multi-CPU servers and clusters thereof -- and cluster support is comprehensive with full fault tolerance."
  • "Should you need to migrate a database from another proprietary database such as MS SQL Server, Oracle or MS Access then the Migration Toolkit, again with the friendly GUI, should take a good deal of the worry out of the process."

Meanwhile, momentum for MySQL 5.0 continues to grow.  We had our first million downloads of 5.0 in the first three weeks and then another million downloads in the following 2 weeks.  Not only have downloads continued to grow, but according to our calculations, we will finish 2005 with more than 8 million active installations of MySQL worldwide --and that's a conservative estimate.  Wow!  Thanks to everyone who has made MySQL so popular.


How to get a MySQL job

I sometimes get asked by our customers what's a good way to find someone with skills in open source in general or MySQL in particular.  Often they're looking for a DBA or a developer to help out on a particular project.  Sometimes I get asked by our users what's a good way to get a job using MySQL.  Luckily, we have a solution for both these problems: the MySQL Job Forum.  Our forums cover a lot of technical topics, but there's also one section focused on jobs.  If you're trying to hire someone or if you're looking for a new opportunity using MySQL, this is a good place to post some information.  I've also seen a lot of postings on Craigslist, Monster and Hotjobs. 

And if you're interested in working at MySQL, we have a couple of dozen openings on our web site at www.mysql.com/jobs.  We've grown tremendously in the last two years and MySQL continues to be a fun and exciting place to work.  There are openings on the web team, QA, engineering, consulting, training, sales and administration.  There's also a good article written by Brian Aker, our director of architecture, on how to get a job in open source development.


Right Now Runs MySQL

Rightnow

RightNow Technologies is a publicly traded company (NASDAQ:RNOW) that has built a successful business on open source.  Although you won't read about them in the usual open source blogs or hear about them at open source conferences, they are as important a user of open source technology as companies like Yahoo, Google, Sabre and many others.  RightNow offers a hosted or "on demand" CRM service used by over 1,000 organizations including the likes of British Airways, Cisco, John Deere, Nikon and many others. 

RightNow is not a huge company nor are they as well known as their chief rival salesforce.com but they are profitable and have a run rate north of $100 million annually.  One of their chief advantages could be that they have built their service offering on an open source stack, using Linux, Apache and MySQL.  While salesforce.com uses a lot of open source technology, they also continue to write a big check to Oracle every year for their database technology.  (And now that Oracle is a competitor in the CRM space, I would imagine it's not a check that Marc Benniof likes to write.)

Whether you're interested in on-demand CRM or not, RightNow's use of open source technology is important as a validation of open source scale-out.  RightNow is handing business-critical applications for Fortune 1,000 companies as well as small and medium businesses and government agencies with millions of queries and tens of thousands of users.  This helps break one of the "chicken and egg" challenges to adoption, namely when companies ask "who is using open source on a large scale?"  While the open source community will often hold out companies like Google, Yahoo as case studies, most IT organizations have as much in common with these type sof web applications as the average DBA has in common with Brad Pitt.  But in the case of RightNow, the applications are transactional, high volume and they provide functionality that IT organizations can relate to.  And increasingly, companies will already be using open source based applications, whether it's RightNow or others. 

Back in the mid-1990s there was a wave of adoption of enterprise applications built on client/server technology.  While some client/server applications were more successful than others, in general, the category became widely successful and it became a self-reinforcing success.  One could argue that the fact that SAP could scale in ERP applications helped Siebel gain credibility and acceptance in CRM and PeopleSoft in HR and so on.  I expect that five years from now the largest and most successful enterprise application companies will all be built on an open source stack.  Customers will come to expect the scalability and cost-effectiveness that comes from open source and those who do not build on an open source stack will be at a competitive disadavantage.


Dan Woods Open Source for the Enterprise

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I had dinner with Dan Woods, CEO of EvolvedMedia Network and author of "Open Source for the Enterprise" along with a few other folks from the Eclipse foundation and Stephen Walli from Optaros at the Gartner Open Source conference in Orlando last week.  Dan gave the closing keynote presentation at the conference.  Not only was Dan the best dressed presenter (admittedly, not hard to do at an IT show) but his presentation was very well thought out and had a lot of practical suggestions for IT organizations who are new to open source. 

For those who have been in the open source world and have seen how far it has come in recent years, we sometimes forget how open source is different from mainstream IT.  One of the key points Dan Made is that because of how open source technology is developed, there's often a gap between what an IT organization wants and what the open source community creates.  Dan presented the gap this way:

Product_gap

He explained that there sometimes isn't the fit and finish on open source products as required by IT organizations.  To an IT audience, that appears to be a "Productization Gap", meaning it's missing some capabilities or is still rough around the edges.  To the open source community, however, it's often just seen as a "Skills Gap", meaning folks should be willing to figure out how to go change the code, add in whatever features are missing, recompile it, and so on.  Neither group is wrong in their view, but it depends on the perspective. 

More importantly, this gap actually defines how people can make money in the open source business.  It is precisely because of this gap, that there are commercial offerings, whether they are services, like Red Hat Network or products, like SugarCRM, that build on an open source foundation.  Dan made the point that if Linux was perfectly productized, then there'd be no reason for Red Hat to exist. 

This thinking is exactly what has driven our work at MySQL on our own MySQL Network.  We know that our software is used and loved by millions worldwide.  Yet we also know from our corporate customers that they actually have even higher expectations.  Yesterday we closed a very significant deal with a mainstream Fortune 100 company who will be deploying MySQL Network to hundreds of servers.  For them, the software is just a starting point.  But what really drove adoption in their company was knowing that they could get the additional value of our service offering, including 24x7 support, software advisors, indemnification, knowledge base and more. 

Commercial open source companies bridge the gap enabling mainstream IT users to gain the freedom of open source while maintaining their comfort with a trusted provider.

If you haven't seen Dan Woods speak, I encourage you to seek him out or pick up a copy of his open source book.  Dan's also an expert in the area of corporate use of wikis, so look for his additional books also.


Google Runs MySQL

Google

There's a good blog article on the Xooglers (ex-Googlers) web site about how they use MySQL to run their adwords program.  If you're not familiar, adwords generates something like 99.9% of Google's advertising revenues, so it certainly a business critical application.  While Google is generally quite secretive about their internal operations, there are some interesting tidbits in this posting about how Google tried a commercial, closed-source database but it was never able to perform as well as MySQL.  A few select quotes:

  • "AdWords was built using the MySQL database, which is open-source and therefore available for free. It is by now also nearly as full-featured as the best commercial databases, but back in 2000 this was not the case."
  • "Many managers seem to have this idea that it is invariably true that you get what you pay for, and that therefore nothing that is available for free can possibly be any good. Using MySQL was acceptable as an expedient to get things up and running quickly and with a minimal of capital outlay, but now that things were settling down it was time to recognize that this was really, fundamentally, a mistake, and it should be fixed sooner rather than later."
  • "We finally decided to go with a commercial database (I won't say which one) over the objections of a number of engineers, including myself. To ease the transition it was decided to convert AdWords over to the new system first, and to do the main ads system later."
  • "To make a long story short, it was an unmitigated disaster. The new system was slower than molasses in February. Some heroic optimization efforts eventually produced acceptable performance, but it was never as good as the old MySQL-based system had been."
  • "I have heard through the grapevine that they eventually went back to MySQL. (Since then, MySQL has added many of the features that had been missing at the time.)"

It's a good article and provides some insight into the thinking around open source from a user's perspective.  Here's a couple of other interesting links.


Gartner Case Studies on Open Source

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One of the things that Gartner did very well at this conference is they blended heavy duty research and analysis with good examples to illustrate the trends.  They had a good balance of analysts presenting as well as panels that let open source gurus, customers and vendors discuss the issues.  And for the most part, the panels were not scripted affairs, they allowed the moderator to pursue interesting lines of discussion and take questions from the audience. 

A few of the presentations also used short case studies on companies to show how they have been successful with open source.  Ray Valdes cited a number of examples in his presentation such as:

  • Sabre Holdings reduced their TCO by over 40% by implementing their open source fare search system (ATSE) using Red Hat Enterprise Linux, MySQL and Tomcat (with a smattering of JBoss).  The system runs on more than 45 quad CPU linux boxes and handles 20 million fare records, 1.5 million scheduled departures and 3 billion price combinations!  The overall system scales to handle 300 transactions per second.
  • TheFaceBook has more than 8 million unique visitors delivering 5.5 billion page views per month, making it the tenth most visited site in the US.  They get 93% repeat visitors per month and 70% of their users visit every day.  The amazing thing is the system was written in 10 days by a college kid (now their CEO) during final exams!  What does the system run on?  LAMP stack, using MySQL, naturally. 
  • Cendant has a travel system that handles more than 700 pricing requests per second all built on a Red Hat open source stack
  • Morgan Stanley has implemented more than 1000 Linux Servers for various applications

Valdes also gave examples of "Global class" web sites such as Amazon, Schwab, Expedia, as well as some unconventional (by IT standards) sites like MySpace, Zanga, LiveJournal that are all built on open source.  MySQL came out very well represented in these scale-out applications. 

Valdes also compared the LAMP Stack to the traditional stacks from "gorilla" vendors IBM, SAP, and Oracle.  While the large companies have more in their stacks (think Apps, Content Management, Portals, Directory Services, App Servers, OS and in some cases hardware), the LAMP stack is still "burning bright."  He said that although the LAMP stack is a "short stack" it continues to improve and its small footprint is actually a virtue for many new enterprise applications. 

There were several other excellent presentations at the conference, including Tim O'Reilly's keynote, a presentation by Linux analyst George Weiss, practical guidance on overcoming obstacles towards adoption and several other interesting panels.  If you're a Gartner client, you can look forward to more research in the open source area in the next year.  For those not yet clients, I recommend attending Gartner's next open source conference in 2006.


Gartner Gets Open Source

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Gartner, the largest and most influential of the IT analyst firms that provides advice and guidance to large corporate users (and vendors) of technology has gotten the open source religion.  Today they kicked off their first Open Source Summit, a 3 day conference in Orlando, which follows their well established application development and integration conference.  The open source section has over 200 attendees which is very respectable for a first time effort, especially since it's a essentially an "add-on."  Gartner has also ramped up the publication of research reports on open source adoption in IT with several recent publications and more than 30 new reports ones planned in the next year.  They are also planning two more stand-alone conferences in the next year.  Clearly, there's interest not only at Gartner but among Gartner's customers, who are typically among the more conservative IT shops. 

The Open Source Summit is the brainchild of Mark Driver, one of the key VP's at Gartner who sets their research directions.  Mark has a strong background in both infrastructure and tools, so its no surprise that he's seen the rapid rise of open source.  Open source has made its way into the enterprise coming through the back door and through tactical projects led by developers, whether it's tools like Eclipse or libraries like Hibernate, Spring as well as runtime facilities like the LAMP stack, JBoss, Tomcat etc. 

Here are a few interesting statistics and predictions from Gartner's recent research that were presented today:

  • By 2007, Gartner expects 75% of IT organizations to have an open source software acquisition & management strategy.  Organizations have a 12-18 month window to get their strategy in shape and those that don't will be at a competitive disadvantage.
  • By 2008, Gartner expects open source software will compete with closed source in all infrastructure areas. 
  • By 2010, Gartner expects mainstream IT organizations will consider open source software in 80% of their infrastructure needs. 
  • Gartner says that open source is the catalyst that restructures the software industry.

As Driver put it, in the infrastructure "open source is a done deal" and its now emerging in every sector.  Driver also said that in his view there's no such thing as an "open source market", rather open source impacts every market.  Further, he said that open source is going to be used whether you know about it or not.  So IT organizations need to make plans now to manage the adoption, otherwise they'll be behind the curve. 

Now while some might wonder what took Gartner so long to come out in support of open source, to their credit, they have been covering Linux for a long time, as well as topics like open source usage in government.  But the real significance of Gartner's actions is that open source is destined to become a safer and more prevalent choice by mainstream IT organizations.  That won't matter to the early adopters, but it matters a ton to the rest of the industry.  I'm not sure what the causality is here, but Gartner only covers billion dollar trends, and I would make the assertion that this is a vote of confidence by Gartner in open source's signficance.  And in case you didn't know it, the Gartner web site runs on LAMP.

I will try to post a few more items from the conference over the next 2 days, including reference to some of the case study examples cited by Ray Valdes such as Sabre, TheFaceBook, Yahoo and others.  Here are a few links to Gartner as well as from Mark Driver's presentations at the Gartner IT conference earlier this fall.


Next Wave of Open Source Applications

Larry Augustin, founder and chairman of VA Software, has written a very clear editorial at sandhill.com on why applications are the next wave in Open Source adoption.  Augustin has a strong background in open source from his Linux days and is involved in several open source application companies.  Clearly with the amount of VC investment going to open source startups ($400 million in 50 startups over the last 18 months) there are others also placing bets in this area. 

While VCs have been known to overinvest in speculative areas (and that's an understatement!) you have to wonder what is driving the investment.  Augustin goes through a well thought out investment thesis to describe what he believes will separate the winners from the losers.  While Augustin may not be completely unbiased in his writing, it's still a good analysis.

I've also included two other links that give more insight into Augustin's views on open source business models. 


MySQL over 70 million downloads

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The Wall Street Journal today, in an article on Sun's recent announcement, reported that MySQL has achieved an estimated 70 million downloads so far.  That's a pretty impressive result and puts MySQL up there with the top products out there, open source or not.  And the momentum is growing with MySQL 5.0.  In the first three weeks we had more than a million downloads.  Thank you to all the MySQL users and supporters out there for making MySQL so popular.  And congratulations to a great worldwide development team!

The news from Sun is that they are continuing in their adoption of open source by offering their Java Enterprise System (JES) under an open source license.  Sun president Jonathan Schwartz said customers are demanding open-source version of products and that companies that don't comply are in trouble. "You are either driving the steamroller or sitting on the asphalt," he said.