MySQL User Conference, Santa Clara Convention Center

by Howard Dyckoff

This was the 10th anniversary of the founding of MySQL AB, the commercial and Open Source hybrid that is also a Eurotech star with a million users worldwide. MySQL has matured, and now supports several discrete engines as well as database clustering. At the conference, the company announced major partnerships with Red Hat and Business Objects, as well as launching "MySQL Network" - its pay-for-full-service, certified offering with 24x7 support.

This year, the company paired with O'Reilly Media to produce a combined conference and celebration. This was a focused and well-organized event that was attended by some 1300 full conference participants and several hundred more expo attendees and exhibitors. Attendees were also encouraged to come to O'Reilly's Web 2.0 conference in SF during the fall. Full conference participants who registered and paid early got a discounted $895 rate and were able to choose a free book - either the new "MySQL Cookbook" or "High-Performance MySQL."; full-time students could get 65% off with proof of status, a copy of ID & a class schedule. A full-cost registration at the door was $1095.

The $25 expo pass [no comps] did grant admission to 2 product-oriented seminar tracks during the 2 day expo - and whatever snacks were hosted in the small expo hall. If you weren't sure about the conference's $1100 full fee, this was definitely the way to go. The expo-OK seminars included Developing MySQL applications in PHP, Leveraging Open Source Tools for MySQL Development, Ensuring Effective MySQL Backups, Linux Server Configurations for MySQL Database & Clustering, and OpenSolaris: Innovation Happens among others.

For an extra $300, attendees got to take 2 tutorials on the first day. Some specific topics were MySQL 5.0, Performance Optimization, PHP, and, Data Warehousing. Two back to back tutorials prepared attendees for the certification exams held on site.


The best keynote was given mid-conference by MySQL CEO Marten Mickos. He spoke about the value of software and platform standardization, and cited the examples of automobiles, fax-machines, and VCRs [can you say "BetaMax"?]. Everything gets inexpensive, Mickos said, after the standardization is accepted. "Now, everyone has a free software browser."

This is good and bad news: while IT $s are shrinking at most companies, the costs of procuring and using software has declined wherever standardization has occurred. There is a kind of "Moore's Law of Software," Mickos said, where OSSw was bringing down the TCO.

How does this relate to the MySQL AB model? "We are the JetBlue of databases," Mickos said. He continued the airline analogy by comparing business travellers to his paying clients and the free users to the economy travellers. The developer community was the crew on this MySQL aircraft.

But MySQL is no longer a light weight DB; version 5.0 will sport views, triggers, and stored procedures. The current 4.1 version is already working well in websites and data-marts. Mickos cited performance examples: Cox Communications supports its DSL - 10 million users with 9000 inserts/sec - on 35 DB instances; Sabre/Travelocity supports 300,000 transactions/hr on 45 DB servers. C/Net and Wikipedia also run on MySQL DB instances.

Some of those ideas were expanded at the final keynote, "The Future Belongs to Data", by Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Books and Media fame. This was less about data than about the value of websites that engage surfers and accumulate trusted personal data for use in new and imaginative SOA and innovative services. O'Reilly spoke of these sites as data aggregators whose intrinsic value came more from the service aspect and less from the software, which was becoming commoditized. According to O'Reilly, these are "meta apps"; the platform is the Internet itself, and not the PC or any specific media device. "This is what we mean by Web 2.0," he explained.

The key to popularity and loyalty, to "website stickiness", is unique and hard to duplicate content made relevant (mostly due to user data.) He pointed to new services being tested by Yahoo and Google as examples of innovative data services. "The new model", he added, "is the perpetual beta."

The new web will be "designed for participation" with "small, loosely joined software components" - somewhat like the model of Linux. This is the approach of MySQL, he noted. He also cited the example of Mozilla, which started out with a heavyweight code base but had recast itself to this model - just before achieving its recent success with FireFox.

He pulled up an interesting demo link that used Google's mapping API and fed in data from the data-rich Craig's List for rental units in San Francisco. The result was a Google map with multiple pointers showing available rentals in a section of SF.

Michael Tiemann, CTO of Red Hat, also delivered a keynote - this one aimed at the relationship between the OSSw community, commercial activities, and the evolution of Open Software licenses. Tiemann gave a nod to Richard Stallman in discussing the history of OSSw, the GNU Manifesto, and the GPL. He recalled the irony of working on C++ at Cygnus in 1995 and considering buying Red Hat at the time (Red Hat wound up buying Cygnus after Tiemann moved there.) He also noted that about 70% of projects on SourceForge used either the GPL or BSD licenses.

Tiemann said that thousands of OSSw projects could now be "viewed as mature." He speculated that over 1 million developers work on these projects, many of whom also work for proprietary, commercial SW houses. This drives the value proposition of OSSw, Tiemann said, by both cutting acquisition costs and also reducing bugfix time. There is also value in getting wide user input and using this for design; more input means fewer bugs and lower costs for end-users. Tiemann contrasted the costs and quality of Linux and MySQL code with that of Microsoft by showing a slide of Redmond's announced security investments which have risen to $2B in recent years. "Writting [bad] code in 1985... is no excuse for spending $2 billion today!"

User Conference Links

This is the best link to a presentations page, still incomplete but public. It also has a left-hand navigation column to the rest of the conference site.

This link is to the list of conference sessions, which have links when the session is available, as in the above link, for download.

There was a Best Practices series, including sessions on using MySQL with C##, Java, Perl, and PHP. These are not currently on the web site but may be posted soon [we can send requests to O'Reilly Media]. I would recommend the available presentation on "MySQL Network - Overview" to get a better idea of the newest commercial offerings from MySQL.

Product sessions and demos showed off the new features and tools in the 5.0 beta; a new family of GUI-base tools for admins and DBAs was also in alpha test. This effort will include a slick, wizard-based migration tool that 'does the right thing' for reverse engineering schemas and stored procedures [not converted yet, but written to scripts]. Demos showed conversions of Oracle, MS-SQL and Access databases.

If you are interested in hearing how MySQL can fit into commercial IT shops, check out the May 12 webinar [10:00 am PDT; 1:00 pm EDT]. To register, go to

Among notable expo vendors:

BlueGlue and SpikeSource, both purveyors of tested and certified OSSw application stacks.

Rackspace and Thout, for new services.

Several informal conversations showed a very high level of satisfaction with the MySQL User Conference. This may be partly due to the tighter subject focus and the clear technical levels of the sessions. It may also have been due to the friendly user community that has emerged around MySQL. If you are using MySQL and its tools, you would do well to attend a future conference.

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