With Drizzle, Sun's MySQL gets skinnier, forgoing features for speed

"Drizzle," a recently announced offshoot of MySQL, is taking the open source database in a wholly different direction than the bigger, feature-full database widely foreseen since Sun's MySQL buyout.

Running only on Linux, Sun Solaris Express, and Apple's OS X, the trimmed-down Drizzle database won't be getting Windows support any time soon, if at all. It essentially component-izes the software, making it so businesses can select which features they need and leave out those they don't, much like a Linux kernel.

Created by a team of open source developers, Drizzle is not a Sun product, "though several of the authors do work for Sun/SQL," said Brian Aker, MySQL's director of architecture, in a FAQ for Drizzle.

In Drizzle's microkernel-based architecture, code will be taken out of the MySQL database core and moved through interfaces into modules. Meanwhile, MySQL -- a database now owned by Sun -- will remain a separate entity, according to Aker.

Drizzle will be licensed under the GPLv2. "Windows is not supported and will stay that way unless it gets a working posix layer, a autoconf system (aka becomes a platform that is reasonable to support)," he contended.

In a blog posting, Aker said that, although he'd been envisioning a slimmer database for quite some time, he was spurred to action by a conversation with the CTO of Rackspace -- a hosting company -- about Memcached, a distributed memory object caching system, and Gearman, a system for dispatching function calls to other machines.

"He asked me whether I had ever thought about creating a slimmed down version of MySQL to work with them," according to Aker.

"After I got off the phone the idea stuck in the back of my mind. The next day I woke up and started playing with the idea of seeing what a cut down version would look like. One day turned into months. Somewhere along the way I decided to bring in a few people and see what they thought. The reaction was more ideas, and code followed. We went about asking the question of 'What if.'"

Under Aker's database diet plan, the functionality to be removed from MySQL for Drizzle will include stored procedures, prepared statements, query cache, access control lists, modes, views, triggers, data conversion inserts, and some data types

Meanwhile, with Sun's buyout of MySQL in January, industry experts have been pointing to challenges for Sun in bringing MySQL to the same levels as Oracle, Microsoft's SQL Server, and IBM's Universal Database (UDB) in terms of performance, scaleability, and installed base.

"As good as MySQL is as a database, there are probably some development issues ahead. Sun might get some limited success among its current customer base -- but still, they have their work ahead of them," said Charles King, principal analyst at PundIT, in an interview with BetaNews in January.

On the other hand, if Sun is successful in optimizing SQL, "that could cause a real [competitive] shift, especially is Sun can raise performance through benchmarking," said the 451 Group's Raven Zachary, in another interview with BetaNews, also at the time of the buyout.

Drizzle is not available yet, and no release date has been set. Who might be using the skinny database? Aker described Drizzle's target as "a certain class of applications/developers and see it this is useful. As an example: 1) Web based apps; 2) cloud components; 3) Databases without business logic (aka stored procedures); 4) multi-core architecture," he said.

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