Key members of the Sun Drizzle team have recently joined Rackspace. This is great news for Drizzle users, but it also begins positioning Rackspace as an enterprise software provider for the next decade.
Drizzle, a fork of the MySQL database, is described as a database designed for the cloud. The project was founded by MySQL's, and now Oracle's, Brian Aker. Development of Drizzle occurred with Sun's blessing after Sun had acquired MySQL and while Sun was still independent. Jay Pipes, another core Drizzle developer, writes about his experience on the MySQL team before joining the Drizzle project:
For almost three years, I had sent numerous emails to the MySQL internal email discussion lists asking the engineering and marketing departments ... to recognize the importance and necessity of major refactoring of the MySQL kernel, and the need to modularize the kernel or risk having more modular databases overtake MySQL as the key web infrastructure database ... My ideas were met with mostly kind responses, but nothing ever materialized as far as major refactoring efforts were concerned.
Pipes began working on Drizzle, and stayed on with Sun after the Oracle acquisition was approved. Pipes and other members of the Drizzle team, including Monty Taylor, Eric Day, Stewart Smith, and Lee Bieber, eventually joined Rackspace on the Rackspace Cloud team.
While usage of Drizzle is far from widespread, it's interesting to note that Rackspace sees a future in the technology that Oracle doesn't. To be fair, Oracle still employs Brian Aker, Drizzle's founder and a key member of the Drizzle development community. However, it's unclear whether Oracle plans for Drizzle to graduate from an interesting project to an actual Oracle product or future cloud offering.
On the other hand, it's certain that Oracle won't easily be able to use a dual licensing approach with Drizzle. As the Drizzle FAQ explains, copyrights to contributions are not assigned to MySQL or Sun (or Oracle). Oracle would need these copyrights from third-party contributors in order to offer Drizzle under a commercial license.
Oracle could rewrite the code for which it doesn't own the copyright, an unappealing but potential path forward for Oracle. Since customers are likely to invest more on internal cloud deployments than public cloud deployments, being able to offer a commercial version of Drizzle for internal cloud deployments could become increasingly important. Don't be surprised if Oracle changes the contribution terms to require joint copyright assignment in the future. This action would signal Oracle's increased commercial interests in Drizzle.
Like any hosting company, Rackspace has a rich history of using open source within its hosting offerings and to run and manage its infrastructure. However, with Rackspace's prior investments in the open source Cassandra project and new investments in Drizzle, Rackspace is shifting from being a consumer of open source to a producer of open source. In doing so, Rackspace is also evolving its focus from a hosting provider to an enterprise software provider. The fact that the enterprise software will be made available through usage-based cloud services and APIs is secondary.
Rackspace's open source investments or enterprise software capabilities won't surely stop with Drizzle. Databases are critical to platform cloud services, but so too are runtimes. This would suggest that Rackspace's open source involvement has room to grow in the area of Java or dynamic scripting language runtimes.
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This article, "Sun Drizzle team members move to Rackspace," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Rodrigues et al.'s Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com.