MySQL CEO: Open source & MySQL will rise, legal foes will fall

Jan Stafford

2004 was a portent of things to come for Linux in 2005, both because of what didn't happen (SCO Group's victory) and what did (the rise of open source software), according to Marten Mickos, CEO of Sweden-based MySQL AB. In this interview, he predicts how those events, which included the success of MySQL's database, will play out in 2005.

What do you think was the top story in the Linux and open source arena in 2004?

Marten Mickos:None of the legal attacks on open source or Linux have been successful. None of that stuff has gone anywhere. That's the biggest story.

On that subject, MySQL has come to the conclusion that software patents will ultimately be demonstrated to be harmful to the industry. So, we are sponsoring a campaign in the European Union today to educate politicians and decision makers on the negative impact of software patents.

What trends in 2004 will have important consequences in 2005?

Mickos: Large software companies, like CA, began coming to open source more strongly than ever before. In 2004, the thought caught on that open source indeed is a smarter way of producing software. It is of higher quality at lower cost and that is sort of a no-brainer. The examples are there for all to see -- Apache, Sendmail, PHP, Linux, MySQL -- and they've reached maturity, all being at least 10 years old.

Also, Linux [cemented its position] as the fastest growing operating system. There is

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growth in adoption of all of the versions. There are the conservative parts of the markets that are staying with the 2.4 kernel, but there are the new guys that are going with the 2.6. I think that the sign of a maturing product is when new versions aren't that shockingly different anymore.

Why did MySQL make so much progress in the enterprise market in 2004?

Mickos:We've been working with the enterprise market and getting ready for the enterprise market. So, in 2004, we wrapped up our services packages and built a consulting team. We came out with new versions, specifically 4.1. Now, we are getting ready for 5.0 next year. In terms of partners, we've established and are starting partnerships with strategic partners that are needed in the enterprise space.

What will be the important trends in the Linux and open source space in 2005?

Mickos: We will see increased growth, faster growth than before, in adoption of open source in the enterprise, not just for MySQL, but across the board. I think that JBoss will be experiencing a lot of growth. The new, slightly younger companies -- like SourceLabs and SpikeSource -- that are coming up will enjoy that growth. There are more enterprise customers who are ready to take the step because IBM, HP, CA and most of the other big companies are standing behind open source.

What challenges do you see facing businesses that are going to start using more open source software in 2005?

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Mickos: We deal a lot with enterprise customers, and we ask them what problems they foresee and what questions remain unanswered. Their No. 1 concern is training the staff. They are asking themselves whether they need to retrain people or whether they have the skills in-house already.

The good news is that most corporations discover, when they ask around, that they have open source skills in-house. That is an important milestone for the open source movement. Many corporate IT people have used open source products at home or, sometimes secretly, in business projects.

Of course, formal training may still be needed. That is the big hurdle that large organizations need to jump as they adopt more open source.

What is ahead for MySQL in 2005?

Mickos: We will come out with version 5.0, which is a very significant release for us. It will have many new features that customers have asked for, and will make MySQL even easier for large and small corporations to use.

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