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My Dinner with Monty (updated)

Monty_zack_medium

I had a nice dinner with Monty Widenius, co-founder of MySQL the other night.  Monty is an excellent cook and he prepared a nice meal for the team that has been working at his house in Finland the past few days.  It was nice to spend time with everyone and drill into some of the interesting new development that's taking place.  We also talked about ways we can improve our processes, code quality, QA and cooking.  I recorded some of the discussions and will try to transcribe it into an interview on the developer zone

Update: The interview is now posted.


JitterBit Open Source EAI

Jitterbit

At the MySQL User's Conference in April, there were a number of new startups coming to market. One market that I think could be huge is for open source EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) software.  I worked in the EAI space for a number of years, helping take Active Software public in 1999 as VP of Marketing and then staying on with webMethods when they acquired Active.  The EAI market had huge growth during that time, fueled by the need for new internet systems to integrate with legacy applications.  The need still exists today, but the growth has leveled off as traditional EAI solutions have been too complex and expensive for most CIOs. 

I think there's a great opportunity for someone to come in and simplify EAI with a solution that works for 90% of the needs out of the box, with the ability for the most demanding customers to customize it to their own needs.  This is exactly the type of middleware that could benefit from open source.

One of the newest open source startups is Jitterbit, started by entrepreneur Sharam Sasson, co-founder of Scopus Technology, an early CRM vendor.  Jitterbit aims to tackle standard enterprise integrations at a fraction of the price of closed source alternatives.  Jitterbit version 1.is now available under a Mozilla license.  They've also enabled the creation of pre-built integrations, known as Jitterpacks. Already Jitterpacks are available for Salesforce.com, SugarCRM and Amazon.com and hopefully more will follow in the coming months.


Should Oracle Fear Open Source?

Silicon

There's a good article on Silicon.com "Should Oracle Fear Open Source?"  The analysis on the impact of open source is significant, however, I think the market analysts such as Gartner still have not gotten their heads around the right way to measure open source impact.  It can't be measured in license fees the same way traditional closed source products have been; with open source there is no significant license fees.  In that regard, the estimates are woefully low.  Open source software has been growing far faster and for far longer than the analysts estimate.  At this point, MySQL is in the #3 position of market share (measured as usage) after Oracle and SQL Server and far ahead of DB2, Sybase and others.  It may take another couple of years before the analysts figure out a way to report that.

I think Oracle understands open source better than most people give them credit.  Larry Ellison didn't get to the top of the market by being complacent.  Oracle embraced client/server before many others, made millions and then, more importantly, they walked away. That's right. Ellison declared client server dead in order to move rapidly to the new era of internet computing. 

Oracle has benefited from huge market share growth on Linux; Microsoft is absent from that market and DB2 is pretty marginal.  Now Oracle has put their toe in the open source market through acquisitions of InnoBase and SleepyCat. 

But Oracle is facing a battle on multiple fronts. Not only are they fighting the traditional battle against Microsoft on the low end and DB2 on the high end, now they must also deal with open source infrastructure, including MySQL, JBoss, Geronimo and others.  In the application space, the "Software as a Service" on-demand offerings like Salesforce.com and Rightnow are growing far faster than Oracle's core business or their recent multi-billion dollar acquisitions.  No wonder the SAAS companies are trading at a much higher multiple than Oracle. 


Team Building - Finnish Style

Neg_sauna_1

Ok, in addition to programming, ice hocky and singing drinking songs, Finland is also quite famous for it's saunas.  I am told there are more than 1.5 million saunas in Finland, which is pretty remarkable for a population of around 5 million.  The sauna culture has existed here for thousands of years.  But leave it to the Finns to come up with something even more extreme: the negative sauna.  Whereas a normal Finnish sauna is hot (like 80C hot) a negative sauna is cold.  How cold?  -110 C cold (which converts to the even more impressive sounding -166 F).

So on the weekend, a few of us MySQLers working at Monty's went to experience a negative sauna.  You start in the room at -30C, then you go into the next room which is -60C and finally you enter the most extreme condition of -110C.  You stay in there for three minutes and in our case we stamping our feet and singing "Helan går" the famous drinking song.  (Or at least it's famous at MySQL.)  It was quite impressively cold and actually very foggy from the humidity in the air.  In fact, you could see snow appearing just from the humidity in our breath.  After three minutes, we went back into the second room, which now felt quite warm since it was only -60C. 


Sun to Open Source Java

Java_logo

At this week's Java One conference, newly appointed Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz has pledged to open source Java.  This has long been a bugaboo in the open source community and it caused many to question Sun's commitment to open source.  While there have been many reasons Sun has given in the past for not wanting or needing to open source Java, such as risks of incompatibility between forked versions, these concerns have always sounded a bit overstated.

Rich Green, who has rejoined Sun as the head of software, will take responsibility for figuring out the details of how and when Sun will make it happen.  It took Sun many years of internal battles to open source Solaris, but they did it and it's now getting broader adoption than before.  You can argue whether Sun should have done these moves earlier, but lets give them credit for doing it now.  Sun's open source strategy is critical to their turnaround and so I hope they are able to make good on their commitments.


TieCon 2006

Tiecon

I'll be speaking on a panel at TieCON 2006 on the weekend.  TieCON is one of Silicon Valley's more eclectic conferences.  The conference is put on by The Indus Entrepreneurs, a not-for-profit industry group focused on helping asian entrepreneurs.  TieCon claims to be the largest conference focused on entrepreneurs.  I don't know if that's true, but it sure sounds good. 

Since it's in the valley it has traditionally focused a lot on technology and helping entrepreneurs get started.  The conference is a good deal and also has a broad range of practical topics ranging from how to raise money, practical lessons in marketing, and looking at specific technologies, whether it's semiconductors, software, mobile, web 2.0 and so on.

Some of the other speakers include Guy Kawasaki, John Doerr, TJ Rodgers, Marissa Meyer from Google, Shashi Tharoor from the UN, Vyomesh Jhoshi from HP and the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger.


BusinessWeek: On Demand & Open Source

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BusinessWeek's Sarah Lacey has a good article on two significant trends in the industry: On Demand systems and Open Source software.  Whether it's Salesforce.com, RightNow or new stealth mode companies like Dave Duffield's WorkdDay, there's an argument that says that the old model of selling expensive Enterprise software for on-site installation is going the way of the dodo.  Why pay millions and spend two years to implement a complex beast of a system when you can get results in weeks with the On Demand subscription models? 

Having been through several failed on-site CRM implementations over the last ten years before three successful implementations of Salesforce.com, I have to agree.  This is one case where paying more doesn't get you more, unless you count more delays, more complexity and ultimately more headaches.

Open Source software is adding a new twist to it.  While most people wouldn't associate Salesforce.com with open source software, in fact, most of their infrastructure is running on open source technology, including Apache, the Caucho Resin application server among other pieces.  Admittedly, Salesforce chose Oracle as their database system back when Larry Ellison was on their board and that was probably the right thing when they were getting started.  But Salesforce has had more than their share of service interruptions due to database issues in the last year.  Maybe a more modular approach would make an improvement there.

More importantly, if you look at other companies like RightNow or SugarCRM, then it's clear that you can build truly scalable On Demand systems using nothing but open source software. 

It used to be that to go open source meant making trade-offs.  For example, Open Office still never quite does as good a job as Microsoft Office.  But when you get to the On Demand systems, I would argue that the open source systems are in many ways better than the traditional closed source on-site systems: Less complexity, better user interface, easier to use.  That may not necessarily be due to the free availability of the source code, but more in the spirit of open source that focuses on the basics, not all the bells and whistles.  And why is that?  Because open source developers shouldn't be caught up in adding every feature under the sun in order to justify an annual upgrades.


The Effective Executive

Drucker_executive_1

The MySQL management team is one of the best I've ever worked with.  It's an interesting blend of European style combined with Silicon Valley "get it done" pragmatism.  When we are discussing complex issues, we often ask questions that come from the works of Peter Drucker, perhaps the most prolific of management consultants.  Many of his best writings are surprisingly basic.  I don't mean that they are simple or dumbed down like "Who moved the cheese?" but they force a manager to focus on the fundamental questions like "What business are you in?" and "Who is the customer?"  A lot of dot bomb angst could have been saved by asking these questions.

In The Effective Executive, Drucker's classic work, he focuses on identifying what makes people effective in managerial roles.  Guess what?  It's not about charisma or style or even being the smartest guy in the room.  It's about spending your time wisely, making decisions and focusing on results.

In the MySQL management meetings we often draw from some of Drucker's key principles:

  • Ask what needs to be done
  • Do what's right for the enterprise
  • Develop action plans
  • Take responsibility for decisions
  • Communicate
  • Focus on opportunities not problems
  • Run productive meetings
  • Think and say "we" rather than "I"

I remember reading Drucker when I was in my 20s and he was old then.  Boy, this guy had impact. Drucker died late last year at the ripe old age of 95.  Few have impacted management the way he did.  He kept it going until the very end.


Learning from Wikipedia

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One of the best presentations from the MySQL Users Conference last week was by Mitch Kapor.  Mitch is the author of Lotus 1-2-3, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, supporter of open source software.

I saw Mitch give an earlier version of his presentation earlier this year at OSBC and it was even better the second time around.  I think the context of the MySQL Users Conference is even more appropriate. And heck, Wikipedia uses MySQL on the backend, so what could be more appropriate?

His discussion was about why people think Wikipedia shouldn't work and yet... it does!  Like open source, here's a leap of faith required.


MySQL Partner of the Year

Oracle_logo_3

At the MySQL User's Conference last week we announced our partners of the year:

  • BusinessObjects - Business Intelligence software
  • Dell - High performance servers for MySQL scale-out
  • Oracle - Developer of the most excellent InnoDB storage engine

I think some people were surprised when we announced that Oracle was one of the winners.  But why not?  They are a good partner of ours and a good supporter of open source technology.  We renewed our deal with Oracle around InnoDB with a multi-year extension with the existing terms unchanged. That's good news for MySQL customers and the open source community.

Some of the press gave us a hard time saying we should let everyone know that we renewed the deal with Oracle for InnoDB.  So now we have.