Saturday, 15 June 2013 21:15

Ditching MySQL: Red Hat shows its prowess in spin

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In the aftermath of one of its most dramatic announcements, Red Hat, the premier Linux company, continues to demonstrate that its main strengths lie in things other than technology.

The company cannot but spin, even at a time like this, when asked a straightforward question. And its right hand appears to be unaware of what its left hand is doing.

On Friday, June 14, iTWire got wind of the fact that Red Hat had announced, at its developer summit in Boston, that it would be replacing MySQL with MariaDB in the forthcoming release of its enterprise distribution (RHEL 7.0). This was reported the same afternoon.

Red Hat's decision to switch is a major slap in the face for Oracle which owns MySQL; it acquired the database when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2009.

MariaDB is a fork of MySQL; it was forked by one of the founders of the original MySQL company, Monty Widenius. Monty's company. Monty Program, was developing the fork and recently merged with SkySQL, a firm set up to provide services and support for MySQL.

Soon after the story was published, iTWire wrote to Red Hat seeking comment.

The response came today from Mark Coggin, senior director of product marketing, and was conveyed by a PR executive.

Here's his spiel: "Red Hat Enterprise Linux provides customers choice by shipping with several databases supported on a 10-year lifecycle. We plan to do the same with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 when it ships, however we are not confirming specific features such as the databases, at this time."

Coggin wasn't finished there. "Perhaps more importantly, we recently unveiled the beta of Red Hat Software Collections 1.0, which includes a wide range of dynamic languages and database options including MariaDB version 5.5, MySQL version 5.5, and PostgreSQL version 9.2. Red Hat Software Collections 1.0 is offered to customers who have an active subscription to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and is offered with a three-year lifecycle.

"It will provide a vehicle to introduce the latest dynamic languages and databases on an independent release cycle from the operating system, but offered with the subscription. Red Hat Software Collections 1.0 is the first in a series of releases, and our plans are to also offer this with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 as a vehicle to make dynamic languages and databases available for customers.

"We are also not in a position to confirm the features or databases planned for Red Hat Software Collections that will be offered with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7. Despite not sharing the details, databases will be offered as part of the overall solution when Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 ships. Our intent is to offer customers broad choices and new functionality coupled with the stability that Red Hat Enterprise Linux is known for."

It confused the hell out of me.

But a little searching on the web showed that Coggin was practising the one art in which Red Hat is proficient - spin. And he was unaware of what technical folk from his own company had said a few days ago.

The announcement about dropping MySQL was straightforward. It was made on June 12 (US time) by Radek Vokal, senior engineering manager for Red Hat's developer experience team. You can listen to it here (watch from 27:35 onwards).

Vokal spoke about some improvements in Red Hat's Enterprise Linux versions which are in current use, and then came to the forthcoming release, 7.0, which is expected to be out in the latter half of the year.

"We will be replacing MySQL with MariaDB," he said, adding that one of the reasons was that MariaDB had more open upstream development, which meant that Red Hat could participate in providing fixes and also features.

"This is going to be the main database that we will support for the system," he said.

Vokal went on to add that while "we will be bringing MySQL in some versions, MariaDB is going to be the main thing for us". You can't get more direct than that.

Communication seems to be a lost art at Red Hat when it comes to the non-geek ranks. Coggin could probably learn a few things about getting a message across if he watched Vokal in action.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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