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January 2007
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March 2007

Union Bank Scales Out with Linux, MySQL


There's a nice article by Jennifer Mears of TechWorld on why Union Bank of California has switched from AIX to Red Hat Linux and the LAMP stack (Linux / Apache / MySQL / PHP).  This article goes in greater depth than the earlier reports interviewing CTO Mok Choe on the reason for the move, the applications etc.  Union Bank is one of the 25 top banks in the United States and while a lot of firms in the financial service sector are using the LAMP stack and JBoss, few have been willing to go on the record.  It's smart marketing on their part.  Not only does it show that they are not locked into closed source legacy software, it's makes Union Bank a more interesting place for IT staff who want to keep their skills up to date.

Choe took a gradual well thought out approach to adopting open source, ensuring that they were successful with smaller pilot projects before going into widespread use.  He also made sure that there was a full return on investment (ROI) analysis in place as well as internal audits validating their use of open source.  The key driver on their widespread adoption was a desire to lower the transaction costs of the bank by moving towards a scale-out architecture based on open source.  Or as Choe puts it:

"We were faced with having to do an upgrade of our Web infrastructure last year, which gave us an opportunity to really look at our architectural direction. We decided to head in the direction of horizontal scaling using commodity hardware and open source tools. There are multiple drivers behind this thing. Cost is clearly one of them. First and foremost always is the reliability and performance. The second thing is we wanted to be able to scale much easier than we do today... We wanted to be able to rapidly manage capacity by adding or subtracting commodity hardware."

6 Out of 7 Massive Sites Use MySQL


Pingdom, an online web site monitoring service, surveyed 7 massive sites to determine what infrastructure software they're running.  The sites included Meebo, YouSendIt, Alexaholic, TechCrunch, FeedBurner, iStockPhoto and Vimeo, all of which are high volume Web 2.0 sites.  As it turns out the LAMP stack is being used in 6 out of 7 of these sites. According to the article, MySQL dominates the database selection among high volume web sites:

With open source ruling the game it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the database of choice for all but one of the sites is MySQL, the ultra-popular Swedish open-source database.

“The features that you get for free on MySQL, with replication, in-memory and fault-tolerant databases (if using MySQL cluster), transaction support, and the wicked performance, cost thousands of dollars with other database engines,” says Joseph Kottke, director of network operations at FeedBurner.

These sentiments are echoed by the other participants in the survey as well.

“We needed something proven, flexible and low-cost,” says Simon Yeo, director of operations at Meebo.

I should also point out that 5 out of 7 of the sites run the Apache web server and 1 runs Microsoft IIS (and in fact an entire Microsoft stack) and one runs lighttpd (known as "lighty").  Lighty has been growing very rapidly in the last year and is used on lots of Web 2.0 sites. 

Alfresco Goes GPL


Alfresco, the leader in open source document management, has now made a subtle but significant change in their licensing.  Effective immediately, Alfresco is being released under the GPL rather than their previous Mozilla-derived license. 

While there's nothing wrong with the Mozilla license they used, my take is, it had two things that were slowing things down.  First of all, it's yet-another-license, even if it is based on a reasonably well-known and accepted license.  So inevitably that means that lawyers start asking lots of questions, at least compared to the GPL which is fairly well understood.  (The GPL is not perfect, but in my view, it's the best going.  And partly because it's widely used by Linux, MySQL and others, it's understood.)  The second issue is that Alfresco's license had an attribution clause.  I don't think attribution is the huge bogey-man that people have made it out to be, but still, having such a clause means you have to spend the time to explain when you have to display the Alfresco logo and when you don't and all of that is just a distraction that gets in the way of adoption.  Now you can just use the software without worrying about attribution or Mozilla license terms.  (For another take on this issue, read SugarCRM CEO John Roberts' response "Why Attribution Matters".)

Alfresco also uses a FLOSS license extension (known by the counter-intuitive lawyerly name "license exception"), similar to what we use at MySQL.  This provision ensures that the Alfresco GPL license is compatible with other open source licenses, including the Mozilla license, BSD License, Apache License, and a couple of dozen other licenses.  Although the whole idea of license compatibility is rather ironic when you think about it, it makes sure there's no impediments to using Alfresco with other popular open source licenses, effectively removing one more potential barrier to adoption. 

At any rate, by adopting the GPL Alfresco has simplified the licensing issue.  (That's one of the reasons MySQL adopted the GPL several years back.)  And it's good news for everyone except perhaps lawyers who charge by the hour to explain all these issues.

Marc Fleury Has Left the Building


I suppose it was no surprise that Marc Fleury, founder of JBoss would eventually leave Red Hat after selling his company last year.  Marc was a classic enterpreneur full of enthusiasm, bravado and, yes, ego.  But as they say, it ain't braggin' if you done it.  He built a successful open source project that changed the game for J2EE app servers and turned it into a rapidly growing software organization, now solidly part of Red Hat.

Above all else, Marc Fleury is passionate.  Here's a former french paratrooper with a PhD who in the early days created a rival JBossOne party in the shadow of Sun's JavaOne. On a bet he ran a marathon in China with his partners. He dressed up as the Joker at TheServerSide Java symposium.  And somehow, he never lost focus and managed to ship a continuous stream of great software.  More importantly, Fleury legitimized the notion of "professional open source" and made it a safe choice not only for developers but for mission critical IT applications.  Fleury is no shrinking violet though.  He took on BEA and IBM and he was willing to speak his mind, even if he pissed off a few people along the way. Ok, maybe more than a few.

Despite Fleury's sometimes, ah, colorful antics, he's proven himself smarter than the average bear when it comes to understanding the evolution and dynamics of the software industry.  He is dangerously smart.  He built a sustainable organization that continues on without him.  And he took care of his team.  Under the direction of Fleury's lieutenant's Shaun Connolly and Sacha Labourey, JBoss is now integrated into Red Hat and the business is growing more rapidly than ever.  As Fleury said in an official statement:

"Open Source is a tsunami that is transforming the software industry in its wake and its inevitability is now well beyond challenge or the force of individual personality."

JBossOne?  It sure did.  JBoss won, Red Hat won and open source won.  Good on ya Marc! 

Pentaho at the MySQL Conference


Pentaho, one of our partners in open source Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence will be presenting several sessions at the upcoming MySQL Conference April 23-26 in Santa Clara.  Conference Early Registration ends March 14, so why wait?

Pentaho has also announced the General Availability of Pentaho Data Integration version 2.4 with open source ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) capabilities.

Sun Optimizes AMP Stack


Sun Microsystems has announced an optimized version of the rapidly growing open source AMP stack (Apache / MySQL / PHP / Perl) on the Solaris operating system.  Sun has also introduced a "try and buy" program as well as programs aimed towards Web 2.0 startup companies who up until now have been developing their business on Intel or Opteron boxes running Linux.

Support for the AMP stack is a good move on Sun's part to show their ongoing commitment to open source and making Solaris 10 a healthy alternative to Linux.  While Linux has greater popularity than Solaris today, Solaris remains a strong competitor for high volume applications.  Sun is also providing support for Postgres as an object-relational database.

Tied with Sun's recent moves to support Intel, and open source Java under GPL, it shows that under Jonathan Schwartz's leadership, they are willing to make bolder moves than previously.  Sun's acknowledgement of the AMP stack would have been unlikely just a few years back when Java was considered the best and sometimes the only language for serious enterprise development.  However, in recent years, Java penetration has started to level off in the enterprise and many organizations have moved away from the complexity of J2EE favoring the rapid development on the LAMP stack. 

It's good to see Sun get back in the game and be competitive.  They have a long history of great technology.  As Sun co-founder Bill Joy used to say: Innovation happens elsewhere. It's nice to see Sun recognize that and support great technology that has come up from open source roots. 

LabKey Computational Portal Software


I happened to run across a software company called LabKey recently.  A former colleague of mine from way back when, Adam Rauch, started doing work at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center a few years ago where he developed a system for analysing mass spectrometry data.  Adam was one of the original team at Microsoft that created Visual Basic and went on to create some other pretty amazing products there. 

LabKey developed the CPAS (Computational Portal and Analysis System) software as an open source science project offering web-based bioinformatics and collaboration tools to help scientists store, analyze, and share data from high-throughput experiments and observational studies. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center uses CPAS to manage the Computational Proteomics Laboratory (CPL) Proteomics Repository containing over 200 million putative MS2 peptides, growing at 3 million per week.  This helps address the issue of early early cancer detection, which is one of the key issues in treating cancer. 


The key goals of CPAS are:

  • Handle high throughput processing and analysis fo results
  • Automate and control data pipleine from instruments to analysis
  • Provide universal access to results and support collaboration
  • Keep data private and secure
  • Allow mining across runs, experiments and samples
  • Make it easy to install, administer and use
  • Support popular platforms and servers
  • Use public file formats

CPAS is available as free, installable software, with source code under a permissive Apache license.  Most of the development is done in Java and they also use a few other open source pieces.   I don't know if this software will help find a cure for cancer, but it's a noble goal.  This is software that matters. 

Two New MySQL Storage Engines


In the last month we've had two updates of new transactional storage engines for MySQL.  Falcon, the new storage engine developed by DBMS guru Jim Starkey is now in Alpha.  And PBXT, from Paul McCullugh at PrimeBase has a new Beta available with referential integrity.  Both use the new storage engine facilities of MySQL 5.1 and are important developments giving more choice to developers building transactional applications.  I'm sure there will be more information on these and other storage engines at the MySQL Conference in April. 

Windows Vista Launch


Ok, I thought this Windows Vista Upgrade Decision Flowchart was kind of funny.  (Click on the link below and then open up the PDF.) The weird thing is everyone's been talking about LongHorn Vista for so friggin' long, I didn't even realize it was launching this week.  It was five years in the making, so I'm sure it's an improvement over XP, but does it really matter any more? For a slightly more serious perspective, check out John Stewart's interview with Bill Gates from the Daily Show via YouTube or read the reviews below.

MySQL Conference Registration Open


The MySQL Conference & Expo registration is now open.  This is the official MySQL conference put on jointly by MySQL and O'Reilly and once again, should be an excellent event.  There are more than 100 sessions focusing on a wide range of topics including the new Falcon storage engine, performance tuning, new features in MySQL 5.1, partitioning, monitoring and management, case studies, and more.  Many of these sessions are new for the first time, so even folks who have attended the conference in the past will benefit from many new topics. 

There are also more than a dozen tutorials on topics like scale out, Ruby on Rails, replication, high availability and writing your own storage engine (by MySQL technology guru Brian Aker).   Tutorials can and do sell out, so if you want to make sure you get into the top sessions, be sure to register early.  In fact, if you register by March 14 you can save $200.

MySQL User Conference & Expo
April 23-26
Santa Clara, Calif