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So It’s Gonna Drizzle on Rackspace

Drizzle is a cloud-directed, GPL 2 MySQL 6.0 fork

Rackspace Session at Cloud Expo

Rackspace has picked up the Drizzle team that Oracle cast off when it acquired Sun.

In case you don't know, Drizzle is a cloud-directed, Linux-leaning, stripped-down, hitherto for unsupported, GPL 2 MySQL 6.0 fork that Rackspace is betting will infinitely scale, or at least scale better than MySQL.

It looks like Rackspace means to go to production with the thing this year. Hopefully it will be stable.

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Drizzle runs the risk of not being as stable as MySQL, because the Drizzle team is taking things out and putting other stuff in. Of course it may be successful in trying to create a product that's more stable than MySQL. But creating a stable DBMS engine is something that has always taken years and years.

Half of Rackspace's customers are on MySQL so there'll be some donkey-style nosing to get them to migrate.

Rackspace evidently wants its new boys, who were not the core pillars of the MySQL engineering team, to hitch MySQL, er, Drizzle to Cassandra, Facebook's imitation of Google's proprietary non-relational BigTable database system ironically named after the daughter of the king of Troy who was endowed with the gift of prophecy but fated by a spurned Apollo never to be believed. (Something, one would think - silly geeks - no database should ever be called especially - if arguing myth - it was going up against the sublimely authoritative Oracle.)

Anyway, Cassandra is "a distributed database with a BigTable data model running on a Dynamo-like infrastructure. It is column-oriented and allows for the storage of relatively structured data. It has a fully decentralized model; every node is identical and there is no single point of failure. It's also extremely fault-tolerant; data is replicated to multiple nodes and across data centers. Cassandra is also very elastic; read and write throughput increase linearly as new machines are added."

Drizzle project leader Brian Aker expects the next release of Drizzle, code named Cherry, to be wrapped up in the next month.

The smart money is betting that even if a good number of high-volume web sites go down this route, an even higher number such as Facebook and Google will continue with relational databases, primarily MySQL.

Somebody - sorry we forget who exactly - claimed that as GPL 2 code Drizzle "severely limits revenue opportunities. For Rackspace, the opportunity to have some key Drizzle developers on its payrolls basically comes down to a promotional benefit, trying to position Rackspace as particularly Drizzle-savvy in the eyes of the community and currying favor for its seemingly generous contributions. What's unclear is whether they may develop some Drizzle-related functionality that they will then not release as open source and just rent out to Rackspace hosting customers...that would be a way for them to differentiate themselves from competitors and GPLv2 would in principle allow this."

Others say that Rackspace with Drizzle is prone to as much vendor lock-in as Oracle with MySQL or Cloudera with Hadoop (just to name two examples). With open source, a sophisticated user won't be locked in, but most customers will, which may be a good thing.

The Drizzle folk criticize MySQL as "increasingly unmaintainable"; its engineers as "extremely resistant to changing its internals" and modernizing it. Whereas Drizzle isn't concerned with "backwards compatibility with MySQL," or having a "roadmap that was dependent on the whims of a few big customers."

Kicked out of Oracle they say "don't know whether Larry understands that cloud computing and infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, and database-as-a-service will eventually put his beloved Oracle cash cow in its place or not" or "whether Oracle is planning on embracing the cloud environments which will continue to eat up the market share of more traditional in-house environments upon which their revenue streams depend.

Rackspace, on the other hand, is suppose to recognize that "the pain points they feel with traditional MySQL cannot be solved with simple hacks and workarounds, and that to service the needs of so many customers, they will need a database server that thinks of itself as a friendly piece of their infrastructure and not the driver of its applications."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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Most Recent Comments
Adrian Otto 03/15/10 02:54:00 PM EDT

In response to:

"What's unclear is whether they may develop some Drizzle-related functionality that they will then not release as open source and just rent out to Rackspace hosting customers...that would be a way for them to differentiate themselves from competitors and GPLv2 would in principle allow this."

Rackspace has no plans to develop parts of Drizzle that are not in the open domain. I imagine Rackspace specific things like how it may integrate with our internal billing system may not be useful to the open community, and would not be developed by the open source group. Any features of the database server that may be useful to others outside Rackspace will be released as open source.

Rackspace does not need a technological strategic advantage. It's differentiated on the service it provides. Rackspace is a service leader, not a price leader or a technology leader. We want the best technology to be open so that the whole world can benefit from it. That simply gives us a more stable platform to deliver high quality services accordingly.

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