Welcome to Oracle's world
Oracle, for its part, will almost certainly leverage its strength and work toward supporting the companies that rely upon it for crucial data. The company has a crack sales force and a well-engineered mechanism for training people.
Oracle's control of the MySQL copyright and its ability to grant commercial licenses to users will also keep many customers in its orbit, if only because paying a few thousand dollars for a commercial license is cheaper than hiring a lawyer to decide whether you are complying with the GPL. Although the vast number of MySQL users run blogs or other basic Websites that store their content in the database, few of these versions produce any revenue. Will Oracle squeeze them harder for fees? Or perhaps Oracle will view these customers as a farm team and encourage them to enjoy the open source licenses until they grow into bigger, more commercial operations.
Some companies will have little choice but to smile and be kind to the Oracle salesman. A number of software companies build their packages around MySQL and ship the two as an integrated tool. They'll need to continue purchasing commercial licenses if they want to bundle MySQL with the code that they write -- or they may think they have to.
There's NoSQL like MySQL
Oracle must be savvy enough to recognize that there are limits to what it can demand before customers start rewriting their code. Twitter, for instance, has announced that it's experimenting heavily with switching its infrastructure over to Cassandra, another open source project with a more open Apache license.
Twitter's move may simply be motivated by technical reasons: Cassandra is a very simple, fast database without many of the more sophisticated protections such as transactions. There are a wide variety of other projects like Cassandra, all of them often defined by the buzzword "NoSQL."
Twitter's move may also suggest a simpler path for MySQL users who would rather not get stuck in the licensing morass. Yet embracing NoSQL comes at a cost: "It's clear that NoSQL has its place, but it's not for the average developer as NoSQL can give you more performance in one area at the cost of less flexibility and interoperability in a lot of other areas," said Widenius. "They remind me of the numerous databases that existed before MySQL was created. When MySQL got popular it killed of many of these as MySQL, thanks to the SQL interface, was so much easier to use and interface with other applications."
At the same time, today's NoSQL databases are reminiscent of what MySQL was like once upon a time. The database began in the same niche as Cassandra, offering very fast storage by forgoing some of the belts-and-suspenders protections of the most traditional databases. Over the years, MySQL added many of these features, building a successful tool that could handle some of the more sophisticated chores, all jobs that required more engineers and bigger budgets.
Widenius, along with organizations that rely heavily on MySQL, is now in a precarious position. If MariaDB fails because would-be customers want to steer clear of licensing issues, he'll be left with a failed company, yet he can claim vindication that his dire prediction of the adverse effects of the Oracle-Sun merger. If MariaDB flourishes, he'll have that success, but his predictions will certainly be greeted with more skepticism. Down one path, he becomes a David who vanquished the Goliath Oracle. Down the other, he's viewed as Cassandra with a baby who's grown up and found a fancier life with the flashy guy and his big yacht. In either case, he's right and wrong.