What does this mean for the MySQL ecosystem? First, there's MySQL packaging and integration. An open project like MariaDB is far easier to work with than one run by a single company seeking fees for every contact. We could see Linux distributions packaging MariaDB, as well as its use in LAMP demployments (the "M" is conveniently retained).
Second, there's the scope for innovation. One developer told me MariaDB has a potentially interesting technical future, with the ability to support OLTP, OLAP, and specialist data-centric approaches, as well as highly scalable multimaster clusters in the future. This diverse future will involve diverse inputs. A foundation with transparent governance that's open to anyone is the ideal place.
Third, there's the competitive dimension. MariaDB recently announced highly compatible client libraries that can be used with both MariaDB and MySQL, written from scratch and licensed under the LGPL rather than under the original GPL used by MySQL and its forks. As community member Arjen Lenz comments, this is a big deal for dual licensing. It means that there's no longer a strong need for commercial deployers to buy a proprietary license from MySQL just to avoid the extra compliance management demanded by the GPL.
The combination of these three factors could make MariaDB an attractive proposition for many participants in the huge MySQL marketplace. Monty told me MariaDB already sees code contributions from several big companies, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, and the developer IRC channel can have 100 or more participants at times.
All is not necessarily harmony. There's one part of the MySQL ecosystem that seems unmoved: the Drizzle project, another fork aimed at cloud deployments and redesigned around a microkernel architecture to be smaller and more modular. Its founder Brian Aker was scornful on Twitter and took a wait-and-see attitude via email. Drizzle already has a non-GPL client library for MySQL -- albeit not a completely compatible one -- and Aker claims the JDBC driver in MariaDB is minimally derived from Drizzle (which uses the BSD license for these libraries, in contrast to MariaDB, which use the LGPL).
Differences of opinion are inevitable in any large community, so this tension may not be a problem. With good execution, the MariaDB Foundation could reenergize the MySQL community and provide a focal point for new innovation and growth. It won't be easy, but the potential is huge. MySQL has been a cornerstone of the history of open source. MariaDB could be a cornerstone of its future.
This article, "The MariaDB Foundation: A turning point for MySQL," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.