MySQL down the drain?

Almost 10 years ago, MySQL became a great open source database, part of the LAMP platform (Perl, not PHP) and had everything to compete with the big players in the next few years.

It was then that they have done major releases, with a huge set of new features each, almost once a year. The community was happy using, developing and integrating with other products. But it was around 2005 that the things started going bad…

Back in 2005, when I was still in the loop, I have to say that I wasn’t impressed with the progress that the database had. I wasn’t also impressed with the new view the board gave to big companies (such as Yahoo!) on what was a good bet and what wasn’t.

After release 5.0 (still the production release, irrespective of what Sun says) there wasn’t a major development until Sun acquired MySQL and only then they’ve released 5.1 which they better shouldn’t.

In the old days, MySQL became famous by not implementing foreign keys and transactions, something that every other database had, because of speed issues. That decision became the core of the company and allowed other storage engines (such as InnoDB and BerkeleyDB which had those features) to be integrated, making it very easy to plan your database, using only the features you needed where you needed.

Who’s to blame?

I’m not sure it has something to do with Oracle buying InnoDB and Sleepycat (and now buying Sun, which owns MySQL). Even with all the politics of Oracle slowly buying MySQL in pieces, I don’t believe it’s the whole story. I see much more of an internal conflict and a lack of vision (probably for the lack of guts to keep taking weird decisions and succeeding) than anything else.

Now, MySQL is going down the same drain InnoDB and Sleepycat went, but with a twist: the source code is still GPL. Sun screwed up MySQL in a way I thought it wasn’t possible, Oracle will do it much more efficiently, even if they still play as good guys, it is definitely the end.

Don’t take my word only, my good friend and MySQL guru Jeremy Cole is taking himself out of the loop to avoid the useless politics. Steven (Computerworld) also cannot see how any of the involved companies will get anything in return of this deal.

Is there a light at the end?

Could Monty’s fork become a new MySQL without all the fuss? Could he, the odd guy with odd ideas, put MySQL on the map again? I do hope so, but that will cost MySQL the hall of fame. They’ll need to start over again and eventually fail once they’re there again and restart…

It’ll be fun to watch, at least MySQL had a GPL license which always ease forks and future development. Long live the open source revolution!


Two excellent articles about the same issue from The Register and Ars Technica.

When refactoring goes wrong

Recently I had to implement a very simple feature that would cross the barrier between a few components. As any good software, the communication between the components is done via public interfaces, and that case wasn’t an exception.

Unfortunately, some core interfaces would need to be changed and I knew I was looking for trouble. Nevertheless, I started it anyway and, in the beginning, it was not as bad as I thought. Lots of changes, of course, but nothing too complex. But the devil is in the details…

Each refactoring pointed out to another refactoring needed, which, if I implemented the first I’d either need to do the second or have to hack it, so I did it. What happened is that it didn’t stop in the second, it went on and on. Each refactoring uncovered another and another. In the end, the state of the program and the unit tests were hardly stable.

I’ve reached a cycle, where refactoring A would break B, B would break C and C would break A again in a different way. The snake was biting its own tail…

That taught me some very important lessons:

  1. Sometimes a simple refactoring can cost you the week and still have to be rolled back. In this case I believe I couldn’t have done differently, I had no way to know how bad it was before actually start poking around the code.
  2. When you face this situation, the best thing you can do is take notes on your changes and roll back. Trying to fix it, especially when you’ve changed quite a lot of unit tests, is recipe to disaster.
  3. Examine your notes and decide which refactoring need to be done first. It’ll probably be backwards to what you had to do in the first refactoring. When in doubt, start from the last and go up the stack.
  4. Never do more than one refactoring at a time. When faced with this situation, stop, take notes, roll back and do the last refactoring first. Test everything and commit before you start the next step.

The last item is especially true when more developers are actively changing the code. This will give them time to adapt their changes to yours and adapt your changes to theirs.

Those lessons I’ve learned, I believe, are irrespective of the version control you use. I know that GIT has some pretty impressive conflict resolutions when merging your code but I doubt it’ll successfully merge high-level concepts (such as object orientation principles and design patterns). If you can’t tell if the test is right or wrong, how could the version control?