MySQL Support Options for IBM i Customers
January 25, 2011 Alex Woodie
Oracle may have cut the cord between MySQL and the IBM i operating system. But that doesn’t mean customers should be ditching the database immediately. While IBM has not announced whether there will be another formal technical support organization put in place to support customers who want to run MySQL on IBM i, the fact that the database is an open source product leaves many options on the table.
Oracle surprised and even angered the IBM i community in December when it stopped supporting the IBM i operating system with its MySQL database. Despite evidence that the open source database was becoming more popular among IBM i professionals, the software giant cited “low demand” as a business reason to kill the IBM i relationship, which it inherited a year before with its acquisition of Sun, which itself had bought MySQL about a year before that.
Oracle’s move is a blow to open source adoption on the IBM i platform. While there are exceptions, the AS/400 community has historically been reluctant to put into production any code that is backed by a community of enthusiasts and other users, and not an actual profit-seeking enterprise. The advent of the commercial open source model–whereby customers can purchase professional support agreements that guarantee a certain level of responsiveness in the event of technical difficulties–has helped to ease some of the qualms that midrange shops had over open source. But there remains an uneasiness and a distrust, frankly, of open source that doesn’t exist on other platforms. Oracle’s move encourages that distrust.
While Oracle has stopped all IBM i-related development with MySQL and is no longer taking formal technical support calls, it doesn’t mean the end of the road for professionals interested in continuing to develop MySQL applications for IBM i or using the DB2/400 storage engine (officially IBMDB2i). It just means that IBM i shops will have to buck up a little bit, and start learning to love the open source.
Allison Butterill, IBM’s application development offerings manager for Power, notes that the MySQL resources are there for IBM i developers to start taking matters into their own hands.
“You can download the source from the website and compile it yourself. So you can create the binaries–just the finished binaries are no longer available,” Butterill told IT Jungle recently. “And it is still supported the way that most open source is supported, which is through the user community, through forums.”
There may still be professional support offered for MySQL. IBM says it’s talking with Zend Technology about the possibility of creating a formal technical support organization to create IBM i binaries for MySQL and provide tech support for the database. Zend, which develops and supports the PHP scripting language, already distributes MySQL binaries for IBM i with its Zend Server package. Because Zend is already working with these products (including IBMDB2i), it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for Zend to be the official go-to organization for professional support.
Nothing has been formally announced, yet. But even if Zend doesn’t take the ball and run with it, there are other possibilities.
Alan Seiden, is one IBM i professional who thinks the midrange community may be willing to try something different. While a formal tech support agreement would be best, Seiden–who develops software for Strategic Business Systems of New Jersey and writes a blog on PHP and IBM i issues–thinks the IBM i community may turn to the open source community to support their MySQL-on-IBM-i implementations.
“For the more adventuresome among us, the open source route might be fine,” Seiden says in an e-mail. “Most of us in the i community who are using MySQL seem to use it for packaged standalone applications such as WordPress, Drupal, or SugarCRM, not for business-critical transaction processing, for which DB2 is still king. At least that’s what I see today.”
However, the situation surrounding the IBMDB2i storage engine, which is owned by IBM, is different. The product, which allows MySQL applications to access data stored in DB2/400 tables, was first listed as a development goal in the original IBM i agreement between MySQL and IBM in 2007, and was delivered in May 2009. IBM i shops who have adopted MySQL have started to use it as a bridge between existing DB2/400 data and their PHP applications.
Seiden, for one, hopes the storage engine stays part of IBM. “I assume and hope that IBM will continue to maintain IBMDB2i or otherwise allow its further development within any new arrangement,” he says.
In the meantime, the IBM i community will wait until IBM and its partners determine the best way to move forward with MySQL.