Happiness is a Warm Cloud

Although a few folks knew about where I and many of the Sun Drizzle team had ended up, we’ve waited until today to “officially” tell folks what’s up. We — Monty Taylor, Eric Day, Stewart Smith, Lee Bieber, and myself — are all now “Rackers”, working at Rackspace Cloud. And yep, we’re still workin’ on Drizzle. That’s the short story. Read on for the longer one :)

An Interesting Almost 3 Years at MySQL

I left my previous position of Community Relations Manager at MySQL to begin working on Brian Aker‘s newfangled Drizzle project in October 2008.

Many people at MySQL still think that I abandoned MySQL when I did so. I did not. I merely had gotten frustrated with the slow pace of change in the MySQL engineering department and its resistance to transparency. Sure, over the 3 years I was at MySQL, the engineering department opened up a bit, but it was far from the ideal level of transparency I had hoped to inspire when I joined MySQL.

For almost 3 years, I had sent numerous emails to the MySQL internal email discussion lists asking the engineering and marketing departments, both headed by Zack Urlocker, to recognize the importance and necessity of major refactoring of the MySQL kernel, and the need to modularize the kernel or risk having more modular databases overtake MySQL as the key web infrastructure database. The focus was always on the short term; on keeping up with the Jones’ as far as features went, and I railed against this kind of roadmap, instead pushing the idea of breaking up the server into modules that could be blackboxed and developed independently of the kernel. My ideas were met with mostly kind responses, but nothing ever materialized as far as major refactoring efforts were concerned.

I remember Jim Winstead casually responding to one of my emails, “Congratulations, you’ve just reinvented Apache 2.0″. And, yes, Jim, that was kind of the point…

The MySQL source code base had gotten increasingly unmaintainable over the years, and key engineers were extremely resistant to changing the internals of MySQL and modernizing it. There were some good reasons for being resistant, and some poor reasons (such as “this is the way we’ve always done it”). Overall, it’s tough to question the strategy that Zack, Marten Mickos, and others had regarding the short term gains. After all, they managed to maneuver MySQL into a winning position that Sun Microsystems thought was worth one billion dollars. Because of this, it’s tough to argue with them. :|

Working on Drizzle since October 2008 (officially)

I’m not the kind of person which likes to wait for years to see change, and so the Drizzle project interested me because it was not concerned with backwards compatibility with MySQL, it wasn’t concerned with having a roadmap that was dependent on the whims of a few big customers, and it was very much interested in challenging the assumptions built into a 20 year-old code base. This is a project I could sink my teeth into. And I did.

Many folks have said that the only reason Drizzle is still around is because Sun continued to pay for a number of engineers to work on Drizzle as “an experiment of sorts” and that Drizzle has no customers and therefore nothing to lose and everything to gain. This was true, no doubt about it. At Sun CTO Labs, the few of us did have the ability to code on Drizzle without the pressure-cooker of product marketing and sales demands. We were lucky.

4 6 9 10 Months in Purgatory

So, around rolls April 2009. The stock market and worldwide economy had collapsed and recession was in the air. There’s one thing that is absolutely certain in recession economies: companies that have poor leadership and direction and are beholden to the interests of a large stockholder will seek an end to their misery through acquisition by a larger, stronger firm.

And Sun Microsystems was no different. JAVA stock plummeted to two dollars a share, and Jonathan Schwartz and the Sun board began shopping Sun around to the highest bidder. IBM was courted along with other tech giants. So was Oracle.

And it was with a bit of a hangover that I awoke at the MySQL conference in April 2009 to the news that Oracle had purchased Sun Microsystems. Joy. We’d just gone through 14 months of ongoing integration with Sun Microsystems and now it was going to start all over again.

Anyone who follows PlanetMySQL knows about the ensuing battle in the European Commission’s court regarding monopoly of Oracle in the database market with its acquisition of MySQL. Monty Widenius, Eben Moglen, even Richard Stallman, weighed in on the pros and cons of Oracle’s impending control over MySQL.

All the while, us Sun Microsystems employees had to hold our tongues and try to keep our jobs as Sun laid off thousands more workers while the EC battle ensued. Not fun. It was the employment equivalent of purgatory. And the time just dragged on, with many employees, including myself and the Sun Drizzle team, not having a clue as to what would happen to us. Management was completely silent about future plans. Oracle made zero attempts to outline its future strategy regarding software, and thus most software employees simply kept on doing their work not knowing if the pink slip was arriving tomorrow or not. Lots of fun that was.

Oracle Doesn’t Need Our Services — Larry Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Cloud

The acquisition finally closed and very shortly afterwards, I got a call from my boss, Lee Bieber, that Oracle wouldn’t be needing our services. Monty, Eric, and Stewart had already resigned; none of them had any desire to work for Oracle. Lee and I had decided to see what they had in mind for us. Apparently, not much.

Larry Ellison has gone on record that the whole “cloud thing” is faddish. I 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. I don’t know 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. I really don’t.

But what I do know is that Rackspace is betting that providing these services is what the future of technology will be about.

Happiness is a Warm Cloud

Our team has landed at Rackspace Cloud. I’ve now been down to San Antonio twice to meet with key individuals with whom we’ll be working closely. Rackspace is not shy about why the wanted to acquire our team. They see Drizzle as a database that will provide them an infrastructure piece that will be modular and scalable enough to meet the needs of their very diverse Cloud customers, of which there are many tens of thousands.

Rackspace recognizes 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. Drizzle’s core principles of flexibility and focus on scalability align with the goals Rackspace Cloud has for its platform’s future.

Rackspace is also heavily invested in Cassandra, and sees integration of Drizzle and Cassandra as being a key way to add value to its platforms and therefore for its customers.

Rackspace is all about the customers, and this is a really cool thing to experience. It’s typical for companies to claim they are all about the customer — in fact, every company I’ve ever worked for has claimed this. Rackspace is the first company I’ve worked for where you actually feel this spirit, though. You can see the fanaticism of Rackers and how they view what they do always in terms of service to the customer. It’s infectious, and I’m pretty psyched to be on their team.

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. See y’all on the nets.

  • http://ronaldbradford.com/blog Ronald Bradford

    Excellent read. Good luck my friend.

    I’m looking forward to seeing great progress with Drizzle.

  • http://rpbouman.blogspot.com/ Roland Bouman

    Hi!

    thanks for the write-up: it’s really good to hear what went down, and I am really happy you and the rest of the drizzle core team found a place at Rackspace.

    I think it’s better this way – instead of being in an environment that already has 3 or more database products to worry about fitting into the overall strategy, it seems Rackspace has clear motivation to shepard drizzle towards becoming a product.

    Congrats on the new position – although in a sense not much has changed, it must feel good to be relieved of the constant uncertainty of the future.

    kind regards,
    Roland

  • http://bytebot.net/blog/ Colin Charles

    A more honest entry could not have been written Jay. Kudos.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, and I’ll say it again – good luck at Rackspace Cloud!

  • http://scobleizer.com Robert Scoble

    Congrats, looking forward to working with you!

  • http://mysqlha.blogspot.com Mark Callaghan

    This is excellent news. Drizzle+Cassandra has potential. It might keep MySQL relevant for many deployments for which sharded MySQL on InnoDB doesn’t scale.

  • http://trainedmonkey.com/ jim winstead

    congrats on landing at rackspace. (to you and everyone else!)

    in my defense, the portion of your email i made that response about was literally a list of features that could have been taken straight from the apache 2.0 docs. i think you may have missed my point at the time: just go ahead and adopt the already-mature apache 2.0 codebase as the new core for a re-architected mysql instead of spending time reinventing those particular wheels. (and i hope nobody would misconstrue me as either a key engineer at mysql nor resistant to change.)

    • http://jpipes.com Jay Pipes

      Heya Jim,

      I didn’t construe you as resistant to change :) And I understand your point now. In Drizzle we have tried hard to employ as many open source libraries without reinventing wheels. Apache APR wasn’t a solution b/c it was C and not C++ (there were also licensing issues).

      Cheers,

      Jay

  • Steve Curry

    Jay et al,

    I wish you the very best with drizzle @Rackspace.

    My lifelong goal is to get management and developer-types to communicate & understand each other better — but perhaps this is just pipedream.

    Steve

  • eduardo pelegri-llopart

    Best wishes at RackSpace. Say hi to the other exMySQLers and exSunnies there… – eduard/o

  • Alberto Laporte

    Welcome to Rackspace, l glad to have you all as part of the team. Look towards learning from each other.

    Best,

    Alberto L.

  • http://blog.chmouel.com Chmouel Boudjnah

    Welcome to the Rack mate hope you are going to enjoy here and come pass by the UK office to say hello…

  • http://www.swaroopch.com Swaroop

    Yet another reason why Oracle buying Sun was a bad idea… Sun was such a remarkable engineering company.

    Nevertheless, kudos that there are people out there who want you guys on their team, and kudos to Rackspace for being so future-oriented.

    Congratulations on your new job! (and same work :)

  • John Oatis

    Jay,
    Congrats on you and the team landing the new gig.

    My company’s a Rackspace customer and I’ve been experimenting with their cloud offerings lately. I’m excited to hear they are looking for more “cloud focused” db’s like Drizzle and Cassandra as the MySQL administration feels like a “shoe-horned” solution now.

    P.S. I talked to you a few times at the 2005 User’s Conference, your open friendliness to users/customers
    will find a good match at Rackspace. I’ve always found them great.

  • http://hideandsql.com Ryan Thiessen

    That’s wonderful news, glad to see that you and the Drizzle project appear to have landed somewhere where you can build on what you’ve done.

  • http://sites.google.com/site/jobinau/ Jobin Augustine

    Congrats to…..to.. Rackspace.
    Now Rackspace got right weapons and people to conquer database world.

  • http://torum.net/ Toru Maesaka

    Congratulations Jay! and Rackspace for employing such great people.

    I’m looking forward to keep working with you on Drizzle. I think I’ve almost reached a stage where I need to beg for help on “tricking the optimizer”.

  • http://pbxt.blogspot.com Paul McCullagh

    Congratulations Jay, and the entire Drizzle Team!

    It is great to know that the excellent work you guys have done on Drizzle will continue.

    Drizzle has ridden out some stormy times. The fact that it has survived is a credit to the original goals, both social and engineering, that Brian and all working on Drizzle set for the Project.

  • http://www.cb1inc.com/ Chris Barber

    Congrats Jay, Rackspace, and the Drizzle team! I must say that I’m a bit jealous. It would be so awesome to earn a living by not only working on cool stuff, but also work with such talented people. Best of luck!

  • http://tim.lossen.de Tim

    congrats jay, this is really good news. i have had drizzle on my radar for quite some time and am looking forward to the progress you will certainly make now, in this stimulating new environment.

  • Ulf Wendel

    Congrats Jay and team!

    It wonderful to see a company making a commitment into Drizzle. While it is possible to run large Open Source software project such as Drizzle without a company employing at least some core developers, it would have been challenging.

    Of course I hope you will continue to be surprised in a positive way by the company culture of your new employer.

    I’m looking forward to read and hear from you guys!
    Ulf

  • http://anjanb.wordpress.com anjan bacchu

    hi Jay,

    Congrats!! on doing what makes you feel good. I hope that you will be feeling lucky 1 year from now as well.

    “Rackspace is also heavily invested in Cassandra, and sees integration of Drizzle and Cassandra as being a key way to add value to its platforms and therefore for its customers.”

    I look forward to hearing from this. I’m not a Rackspace customer but it appears that this combination might make a few things easier for me today and down the line.

  • http://openlife.cc Henrik Ingo

    It seems everything has been said already, but just want to chime in and wish good luck for the next phase of Drizzle.

  • http://jsmag.com/sampler Michael Kimsal

    Good to hear what you’re up to, but more importantly, why you’re up to it. It’s going to be fun to see what all you super-sharp people come up with both in cooperation with, and in reaction to, the wider database arena over the next several years. Looking forward to it!

  • Tom Hanlon

    Great News for Drizzle !!

    Yow !!!


    Tom Hanlon

  • http://www.theopenforce.com Zack Urlocker

    Rackspace is a great company. Best of luck to you and the team.

    –Zack

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  • Art Barrios

    Jay,

    Take one thing with you as you leave Oracle: the idea behind the Virtual Private Database feature. I know of no other DBMS product that has this feature which makes multi-tennant applications so easy to produce. Good luck with Drizzle.

    - Art

  • Ivan Zoratti

    Jay – Best of luck at Rackspace!

    I am sure you and all the Drizzle team will rock at Rackspace.

    Cheers,
    -ivan

  • Diego

    Great news! I’m glad to know you are all doing well at Rackspace.

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  • http://www.louisvuittonbagmall.com/ louis

    I talked to you a few times at the 2005 User’s Conference, your open friendliness to users/customers
    will find a good match at Rackspace. I’ve always found them great.

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