Oracle Unveils MySQL 5.6

Earlier this month, Oracle released version 5.6 of MySQL, the widely popular open source database. While the latest version brings a number of significant new features and capabilities, some observers wonder if it’s too little, too late – as many users have been transitioning to MariaDB, a competing open source database created by the original founder of MySQL.

MySQL 5.6 comes ready for production use now after nearly two years of development. This version can credit its improved speed and efficiency to upgrades to the InnoDB storage engine. As a result, the software can scale better on systems of more than 48 concurrent processor threads, making it noticeably faster than its predecessor for most tasks.

MySQL 5.6 also boasts improvements to its query optimizer, shortening execution times – quite dramatically, in some cases. Some queries that used to take days to run will now complete in seconds. The database software also handles replication “faster and more reliably than its predecessor, thanks to multiple new optimizations and failsafe features,” The Register notes. You can read Oracle’s press release for full information.

You might think such a new and improved product of something in use basically everywhere online would see widespread adoption. If so, you might be surprised to learn that both Fedora and openSUSE () voted to replace MySQL with MariaDB, a fork of the database management system. Why would two separate Linux operating system communities choose to vote MySQL off the island? And what are the implications for users of those Linux flavors?

“For database developers and managers, this change shouldn’t be a problem,” Steven Vaughan-Nichols () notes in a piece for ZDNet. “MariaDB, a MySQL fork founded by the original MySQL developers, is designed to be a drop-in replacement for the MySQL Database Server.” If you want to use MySQL, though, you can switch it out; indeed, Michal Hrusecky, an openSUSE developer and the MySQL maintainer for openSUSE and SUSE said that “unless you have some deep optimizations depending on your current version, you should see no difference…you can still easily replace MariaDB with MySQL, if you like Oracle.”

If you use one of these flavors of Linux and like to keep your life boring, though, you may find there’s no need to switch back to MySQL. As Hrusecky explained about his switch to MariaDB, “I originally switched for the kicks of living on the edge, but in the end, I found MariaDB boringly stable (even though I run their latest alpha). I never had any serious  issue with it. It also  has some interesting goodies that it can offer to its user over MySQL.”

Indeed, there may be some good reasons to use MariaDB rather than this new version of MySQL. The Register notes that since Oracle took control of MySQL, the company has increased its support prices and changed over to an “open core” model – the basic version of MySQL remains available for free, but extensions for enterprise customers “are proprietary, closed source, and cost a pretty penny.” Furthermore, “Oracle releases bug fixes and security patches for MySQL less often than Sun used to, and when it does, it doesn’t disclose as much information as Sun did.”

Given all this, Oracle may find itself continuing to lose users as they migrate to MariaDB. It’s questionable whether this latest release will stem that tide.

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