The Village View

Friday, September 01, 2006

Irregulars podcast with Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL

Yesterday our group of enterprise software bloggers, the Irregulars, recorded a podcast with Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL. While the recording is being sent to us (by CD from the conference call hosting company. Very old school for a group of such cutting edge folks) I thought I'd give you a taste. What follows are my notes of the call. Please note they are not complete as I may not have written everything down (and I did get interrupted once). We're hoping to have the podcast done by early next week.


Erik Keller, Wapiti LLC (moderator)

Mark Crofton, SAP

Dan Farber, ZDnet

Jeff Nolan, SAP

Thomas Otter, SAP

Charlie Wood, Spanning Partners (btw, Charlie wrote a bit about the call too.)

Erik started off by asking Marten what the basic misconceptions around open source are

  • Marten Mickos: Open Source (OS) is not a business model or a market, but rather a production method (it consists in fact of several markets).
  • The misconception has positive and negative effects on MySQL. On one hand the exposure of OS is good, but it tends to get lumped into the wrong business models often

Is MySQL interested in the traditional (client/server) business applications market

  • It's a sizeable market, but fairly locked up with existing vendors; a lot of inertia and difficulty getting customers to migrate to a new database
  • That's why MySQL focused on new types of software applications which includes Web 2.0, but is really broader than that
  • A lot of applications are still being built, so the market is not shrinking. However, most companies already have applications such as payroll, HR etc (this is not growing).
  • What is new is that innovation is happening in the consumer space and going to the enterprise space (previously the direction was often the opposite)

Are SAP, Accenture et. al. not necessarily the best partners?

  • This is not necessarily the right conclusion because the leaders of the "Old World" see the changes
  • SAP is one of the companies that sees the changes that are happening and that's why MySQL partners with SAP.

MM: There is need for new software because users have more advanced demands

  • End user demands put new demand on infrastructure - it needs to scale quickly (scale out architecture)
  • Need architecture that allows you to add resources where you need them.
  • Open Source software has the best solutions for "scaling out"
  • Look at MySQL customer RightNow - no outages, linear (and inexpensive) expansion

Question: Is MySQL appropriate for SaaS, can it scale out cheaply?

  • Ask our customers (see RightNow above)

Question: why don't you have traditional players like Accenture as partners

  • Inertia - Microsoft, Oracle, IBM are dominant and utilize various forms of lock-in e.g., they make it difficult to migrate off of

Question: What about the new / different companies and new types of software

  • That's what's happening
  • Companies may have DB2 or Oracle for legacy apps, but use MySQL for new apps e.g., those with Web front ends

Question: What is the effect of Oracle's open source acquisitions on MySQL and open source

  • Best validation of open source, but Oracle buying open source companies doesn't affect the open source world

Thoughts on Ingres/EnterpriseDB

  • Going after a market, i.e., Oracle's, that MySQL is not going after.
  • Why is the market not interesting - Slow moving, inertia, entrenched players

Question from Mark Crofton, ehh moi: What resources and strategies are you employing to increase the number of downloads which convert to paying customers?

  • It's a long path from downloads to paying customers
  • 50,000 downloads a day
  • Key finding: many of those who download the software will never become paying customers themselves. They are the DBAs and Web Masters of the world. However, they can become champions within the company.
  • Follow-up question: what specifically are you doing then to get those business users who might indeed be in the position to make a purchase do so
  • MySQL uses newsletters and webinars aimed at business users
  • Sometimes a download will lead directly to a sale as in the case of Travelocity

Question from Dan Farber around the future of the hybrid open source proprietary model (have a few version for download and a paid, proprietary version)

  • Market doesn't seem to mind the hybrid model and therefore over the next 5 years or so you will likely see more of the this model
  • Free open source version plus a version with extra features for paying customers

Question from Jeff Nolan around the economics of the software business in which you have an upfront license fee (covers the cost of building and selling software) and a maintenance fee (where successful companies carefully manage their customers to insure the flow of maintenance dollars). The MySQL model is different in that there is no upfront license fee. Therefore, if one were a start up open source company, what are the key things you would need in your business model?

  • All companies have to spend on R&D and this is not going away. Even Red Hat spends on R&D.
  • However, the way you sell your product can be different. Start up open source companies should be careful not to fall inot trap of traditional software sales model.
  • Part of this is educating the market about what you will and won't do in your sales process. MySQL, for example, will not do "proof of concepts;" they explain to the prospective customer that this is part of why they can sell the product so cheaply.

Question from Thomas Otter: What would you say to SAP CEO Henning Kagermann if you had one hour with him?

  • Would suggest ways of moving into the online space. Look for open platforms that are emerging and build them into NetWeaver.
  • What about a message for what SAP needs to do this year?
  • Focus spending on NetWeaver and opening it up even more

Question from Charlie Wood ("happy MySQL user): Please comment on Adam Bosworth's presentation from the 2005 MySQL users' conference, in which he suggested that MySQL work with Google, presumably to offer a Google-powered storage engine for MySQL, to, "handle hundreds of millions of queries a day," and "scale up and out in ways that Oracle could only dream of." Can you envision such a collaboration?

  • Important to keep in mind that Adam's proposal was mostly technical, but yes, MySQL, could do that.
  • What many fail to realize is that the world's largest database today is the Google search index. It's an amalgamation of many small sources.
  • Follow up question: Recently Amazon has made several announcements about online, pay-as-you-go infrastructure services including storage (S3), message queuing (SMS), and compute power (EC2). Can you envision MySQL offering a similar database service?
  • This is the database "dial tone" and is a different question from the Google one. Not sure that this is MySQL's core competency, but hopefully whoever does this would use MySQL database to do it.

Question from Erik Keller: Where do you see MySQL (and other open source databases) in 2-3 years (in both general use and enterprise software).

  • For enterprises: many more running on open source databases. However, should not expect open source databases to be only databases in an enterprise. Look at Dell, all there data centers don't use Dell hardware.
  • MySQL will come in expanding on existing infrastructure. People are becoming more intense data users with BI, Data marting and data streaming becoming more common.
  • See MySQL growing outside of traditional ERP


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