CRN Interview: Marten Mickos, MySQL

As the CEO of MySQL AB, Marten Mickos is trying to leverage open-source technologies to commoditize the database segment of the market. Riding a wave of interest in Linux, MySQL is becoming increasingly popular and has attracted support from industry stalwarts such as SAP. In an interview with Editor in Chief Michael Vizard, Mickos talks about the impact open-source technologies are having on the business models of solutions providers.

CRN: How does open source technology change the way people need to sell solutions?

Mickos: Open-source technologies can demote the software issue from the pricing discussion with the customer. They can focus the customer on talking about the application of the logic and the value-add of the solution provider because they will have all the tools available. We have all been led to believe that software itself should carry the highest price tag of a new application. Open source says that's not true. Software deserves money, and it shouldn't be completely free of charge but it doesn't have to be the lion's part of the solution. And resellers and integrators realize they will get higher market share because customers will just see that they get the same stuff or better stuff but at a lower price.

CRN: How do you perceive the channel will engage with open-source solutions?

Mickos: Open source is now getting more into the sort of mainstream where channels and partners play a role. We could see the start two years ago, but people now accept the Linux has made it into the enterprise. Now they are asking what's next, or how far can open source go?

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CRN: Given that question, what impact does XML and the advent of Web services have on databases in the enterprise?

Mickos: It's clear that every database needs to be able to interact with XML, but you can do it through wrappers and layers. Fundamentally, what the Web services or XML or both change is suddenly you need low-latency data storages. You need data storages that are small, fast and where the connect times are very short, where you can get it up and running weekly, where it's not like a steam engine that you have to heat for three hours before it starts working, like some of the big databases might be. You need those instantly accessible databases. I think MySQL has an edge because we have always designed the database to be very good at economizing memory for connections and memory for opening and closing. We have no extra fluff there.

CRN: How does your approach to open source differ from IBM or Oracle?

Mickos: You should ask them why they claim that open source is so fantastic but only at the operating system level, not anywhere else. That's perhaps the only place where I disagree with them. We should perhaps give the credit to IBM for bringing Linux into the enterprise because many companies did it, but IBM was the first one to endorse Linux and say they were now fully behind it. In a similar fashion you could say that SAP has endorsed it but by a scale of the agreement with us.

I think the distinction between DB2, Microsoft and Oracle in one group and us in a separate group is that we clearly state that databases are becoming a commodity and we are serving the commodity part of the market. Those three big players say that their databases are not a commodity. I would ask somebody else to define how much of the market is commoditized and how much is not. We're just there serving the commodity part of it and filling the void.

CRN: So are you trying to become the Michael Dell of databases?

Mickos: Absolutely. Dell is a fantastic analogy for us as well. It's a similar thinking in that we have a fantastic design to simplify the product so that it's easy to sell, easy to use, has high performance and high reliability.

CRN: Does MySQL have a formal channel program?

Mickos: We're working on the model, and I can't claim to have it available today. For people that want to ship a complete stack, we're working on something with some key partners and plan to have something ready in six months or so.

CRN: That stack would be for people that want to build complete custom systems vs. people in the channel that just need to build applications today?

Mickos: Yes.