20 years MySQL

20 years MySQL

As MySQL nears drinking age, Peter Zaitsev, CEO of Percona looks at the state of affairs in MySQL – security, data growth, Oracle and the new database kids on the block.

In the last twelve months what has changed in the MySQL space?

Peter Zaitsev, CEO of Percona: Things have moved forward in the last twelve months in a good way, but we are seeing an evolution rather than a revolution in the technology. In previous years we have seen market changing NoSQL solutions emerge or a growing trend towards database as a service. Recently, the changes to the MySQL ecosystem have been minor compared to previous advancements.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the birth of MySQL. In the fast moving open source landscape in many respects it is a venerable technology now, which may not seem that exciting, but that stature also means that it has become a critical aspect of business for many companies – especially for e-commerce and other online companies.

This elevated stature has shifted much of the development focus to scale, reliability, and resilience and exciting progress is still being made in those areas.  We expect this year’s Percona Live conference to demonstrate that.

What are the hot topics at the show?

MySQL 5.7 will be available in the next couple of months and at Percona we see this as a significant step forward. The consultation that has taken place to bring 5.7 to market will result in a much more robust solution with higher availability that will be able to handle much more demanding applications. We’d like to think that some of the innovative functionality present in Percona Server has influenced the make-up of MySQL 5.7. Naturally, in any new release customers and the wider community are consulted on what they’d like to see included, and we believe that many of the grumblings that derive from the open source community will be appeased in this new release.

Specifically, internal changes within the software will make MySQL easier to operate at a larger scale in terms of datasets and memory. Usability is an issue that we believe will be resolved and we also expect parallel replication to be significantly improved meaning that replication between nodes should no longer be a limiting factor. In addition, there are several optimization improvements which will help software engineers who are developing new applications, meaning that it will be much easier to write queries.

“Every major retailer has essentially become a bank, which is good news if you are a cyber criminal!”

It’s fair to say we saw a few headline data breaches in 2014, which has led to MySQL 5.7 being designed with privacy and security front of mind. Our lives are increasingly spent online, or in the cloud, and as far as business goes there is an increasing trend towards replicating and compiling of data – in essence, we have to go to fewer places to get what we want. Every major retailer has essentially become a bank, which is good news if you are a cyber criminal! Without doubt, there is a thriving black economy and our online data has become monetized – criminals more or less have their own version of eBay. By default, this means that any new release of MySQL has to have a clear focus on security no matter how complex our systems are. 

As NoSQL and MongoDB have become more popular, has MySQL become less relevant?

You need to take into account we are being swamped with data and that trend is only going to increase. Admittedly, there are various new database kids on the block and each has a role to play within a specific domain. But, not one of them has replaced MySQL – relational databases are as relevant today as they were five or ten years ago. Whatever you might hear, MySQL is alive and kicking.

“None of the new database players have replaced MySQL”

The smart guys understand that there are a lot of choices for managing data, let’s also throw Hadoop and Cassandra into the melting pot, but in the end it’s really horses for courses and companies will use the solution which is most applicable. At the conference, the strengths and weaknesses of each particular solution will be discussed in great detail. At the end of the day MySQL might be perceived as an established or old technology, but it is expressive, powerful and very convenient to use.

Within the industry, who have been the big movers in the last twelve months?

For me, SQLite has had a great year. It is estimated there are over 2 billion installations of the technology – which is more than everybody else combined – as it is more or less in every mobile phone. Interestingly, it’s a very small company (three people) and in that respect it’s a perfect example of how the open source community works.

For MySQL, we have seen more installations in what we could loosely term ‘big business’. These are Fortune 500 companies in sectors such as e-commerce, healthcare and finance. Why has this occurred? Well, MySQL is seen as a safe and mature technology – large enterprises are willing to invest in it. As I mentioned earlier, MySQL is now into its 20th year so unsurprisingly it is ubiquitous across many sectors. If a large enterprise is using a database, there’s a very strong chance it will be MySQL.

Do you think Oracle is moving MySQL forward in a good way?

I know that many of my open source colleagues are sceptical about Oracle’s plans for MySQL, but risk-averse enterprises trust Oracle.

“Risk-averse enterprises trust Oracle”

From an engineering perspective, Oracle provides a safe, reliable and predictable service that includes monthly security releases. If MySQL is to play on an enterprise stage, then this methodical, staged, consistent evolution is a necessity.

What else is new in the MySQL ecosystem?

We are close to getting three major improvements in the MySQL ecosystem which are all transformative. Firstly, MySQL 5.7 which has been under development for several years. Secondly, MariaDB 10.1 is expected to be released soon. Thirdly, at the back end of last year Amazon announced detail of its new database engine Aurora, claiming it to be a commercial grade database engine at open source cost.

According to Amazon, customers will rent a virtual machine instance in which the SQL and transaction engine runs. Caching also lives on this instance, though it runs in a separate process so that you can restart the database engine without losing the cache. Logging and storage are handled by an external layer that runs on Amazon’s storage service. This could be a very interesting development and is causing some excitement within the community.

Any concluding remarks on the future of MySQL?

The MySQL ecosystem is being driven by the need for robustness, high availability and, to a degree, the need to provide database as a service in a cloud environment. As the cloud becomes more prevalent, databases become a single point of failure which is why security becomes a critical issue. But for us, high availability is where we will be focussing our efforts over the coming months specifically in relation to the enterprise market.