Ghosts of MySQL past, part 10

At the end of 2007, the first alpha of MySQL 6.0 was released. Alpha is the key word here, 5.0 was in decent shape by this stage, 5.1 was not ready and there were at least rumors of a MySQL 6.1 tree. I’ll go into MySQL 6.0 later, but since you’re no doubt not running it, you can probably guess the end of that story.

The big news of 2008 was that at the last MySQL AB all company meeting, the first and last one to occur while I was with the company, in January 2008 in Orlando, Florida, it was announced that Sun Microsystems was going to acquire MySQL AB for the sum of ONE BILLION DOLLARS. Unfortunately, there were no Dr Evil costumes at the event. However, much to the amusement of the Sun employees who were present at the announcement, there was Vodka.

So, while the storage engine project that was to be the savior of and the future of the company, Falcon, had the same name as a Swedish beer (that I’ve actually not seen outside Sweden), the code name for the Sun acquisition was Heineken, and there were a few going around in celebration after the acquisition was announced.

IMG_20140310_111449I cannot remember where I got this badge (or button if you speak American), but they were going around for a little while, and it was certainly around the Sun era, possibly either at a User Conference or around the Sun acquisition.

Sun was very interested in Falcon. With the new T1000 SPARC processor, with eleventy billion threads over several cores and squarely aimed at internet/web companies, it was also thought there could be some.. err.. synergy there.

So what happened with the Sun acquisition?

Well, we soon discovered that although Sun made a lot of noise as to its commitment to free and open source software, its employment contract, IP agreements and processes were sorely not what we expected. There is, in fact, probably a good book in the process of MySQL AB engineers joining Sun, but the end result ended up being rather good. We changed Sun and made it a whole lot easier for anybody inside Sun to contribute to open source projects.

There was some great people inside Sun that we were able to work with, yet there was also a good dose of WTF every so often as well. There was a great “benchmark” that showed what kind of performance you could get out of a T2000 with MySQL once – you just had to run 32 instances of mysqld for it to scale!

One thing Sun had worked out how to do was release software that worked relatively well. Solaris was known for many things: Slowaris, ancient desktop environment, a userspace more suited to 1994 than 2004 but one thing it was not known for was awful quality of releases.

Solaris required code to work before it was merged into the main branch and if code wasn’t ready to be released, it wouldn’t be merged, missing the train. While this is something that would seem obvious today, it was kind of foreign to MySQL – and it would take a while for MySQL to change its development process.

The biggest problem with Sun was that it was not making money. If you want to know what was most wrong with the company, talk to one of the MySQL sales people who went across to Sun. It was basically near impossible to actually sell something to someone. Even once you had someone saying “I want to give you money for these goods and/or services”, actually getting it through the process Sun had was insane. At the same time I ran a little experiment: how easy was it to buy support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux versus Solaris… you could guess which one had a “buy” button on and which one was impossible to find on

We (of course) got extra tools, resources and motivation to have MySQL work well on Solaris, especially OpenSolaris which was going to be the next big thing in Solaris land.

I should note, the acquisition did not make millionaires out of all the developers. It did make some VCs some money, as well as executives – but if you look around all the developers at MySQL AB, not a single one has subsequently called in rich.

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