Rackspace Cloud 'Drizzles' Into Open-Source Software

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Mar 23, 2010


As Oracle continues to shed the former open-source software personnel of Sun Microsystems, other companies are benefiting from the transition. Among those is cloud computing and hosting vendor Rackspace, which recently hired four of the key open source developers behind the Drizzle database effort, a spin-off from the Sun-owned MySQL database. Rackspace is now a leading sponsor of MySQL spin-off Drizzle with a plan to help the open-source software project get in shape for cloud-based deployments.

Rackspace uses MySQL today in its infrastructure but has said that it sees its limitations when it comes to cloud deployments. That's the reason behind the company's interest in Drizzle. In some ways, Drizzle is an enhanced version of MySQL, providing additional cloud scalability features, but Rackspace said the project is not quite ready for prime time yet -- but with its investment, it's hoping to help get it there.

"We've had issues with scaling MySQL in a multi-tenant environment like ours, so we've been looking at other database options and have been looking at Drizzle for over a year," Jonathan Bryce, co-founder of the Rackspace Cloud, told InternetNews.com."When the opportunity came up to really get serious about funding Drizzle, we jumped at it and were able to bring on basically the entire core team that is working on Drizzle."

Drizzle was originally launched by Sun staffer Brian Aker in July 2008 as a slimmed-down, more optimized version of MySQL. Drizzle project founder Brian Aker remains an Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) employee, although Bryce said that Rackspace has hired four former Sun employees that worked on Drizzle in addition to their manager. The list includes former Sun staffers Monty Taylor, Eric Day, Stewart Smith, Lee Bieber and Jay Pipes.

"Besides those people, there are a couple of other people that still work on Drizzle full-time for other companies, so there is support outside of Rackspace for the project and that's the way we want it," Bryce said. "We don't want this to just be a Rackspace project that we stick an open source label on."

Drizzle in Production

Though Rackspace is investing in Drizzle, it's not yet using it in full production as a replacement for MySQL -- although Bryce noted that in his view, Drizzle has that potential.

"We think Drizzle changes some of the fundamentals in the way that relational databases are used -- especially on bigger hardware like ours, where we've got thousands of servers that we deploy against," Bryce said. "We can get much better usage now."

As to when Rackspace will consider Drizzle to be production-ready, it's a question of code maturity, Bryce said.

In particular, he noted that he views Drizzle as safe in that users won't lose data, but it still needs maturation in availability. As it turns out, availability is the focus for the next couple of releases of Drizzle.

"There is an upcoming release that is codenamed 'Cherry,' which will be out sometime in the next two months and that’s when you’ll see that Drizzle will be ready for a lot of prime-time production usage," Bryce said. "It's still an early project, so I wouldn't advise someone to run their whole business on it. But that's the point with the Cherry release, which is where you start doing real stress and load testing on any kind of system that you're going to roll out."

Although Drizzle is different than MySQL in a number of ways, it retains some similarities as well, which will be an aid for those looking to migrate. Bryce explained that if a user was running an application that uses MySQL -- for example, the WordPress blog or the Drupal content management system -- they can connect to Drizzle with the existing MySQL protocol. Those users would then get the Drizzle benefits of being able to leverage additional server cores, larger memory and better caching.

"If want to get the full benefit, there are some client library differences where you'd need to make use of Drizzle-specific client libraries, but to get some of the advantages, it really is a smooth and seamless migration," Bryce said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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