MariaDB CTO: NoSQL database bubble to burst soon

Michael “Monty” Widenius talks last 25 years of open source, including Linux, and what is on the cards for the industry which is struggling to monetise itself.

The use of open source could be hindered as companies in the field struggle to monetise their solutions.

That is according to the CTO of MariaDB and an open source veteran, Michael “Monty” Widenius.

Widenius told Data Economy that today there is a “bubble in the NoSQL data space” and that bubble is not too far from bursting.

“It will be in a few years. Two to five years. Because there is so much money poured into some companies and they do not have a way to monetise until [a solution] is proven worthwhile.

“That bubble environment is mostly open source. And I believe that we will see a similar crash as we had in 1999. That crash was software based on open source, because people believed open source solves everything.

“You will see a similar bubble, of course smaller in scale in the database space.”

In two years’ time, Widenius warned that all non SQL databases that are trying to “desperately add SQL” might not realise that that is something MariaDB and some other vendors have already done, and this will lead to the aforementioned bubble.

“NoSQL vendors no longer want a big piece of their small pie because everyone has eaten it, they want a small piece of the big SQL pie.

“I expect that a big part of NoSQL will disappear in the next two years, I do not think it is likely to happen in the next six months, after one year probably some of those will disappear.

“It is totally depending on defining climate. Defining climate for NoSQL companies is not that good, it continuous to be bad, and it tends to go uglier.

“I see more people revert back to doing SQL than NoSQL because it is still trusted to handle mission-critical data.”

Widenius continued to say that the possibilities for companies to profit are narrowing because “they have not really offered a true alternative to relational databases which is still the backbone of large, heavily regulated industries”.

“Open source has been great for the proliferation of world-class, easy to use software and hardware. However, the providers of open source technology are struggling with the commercialization of their products and this is a dangerous cycle which is ultimately affects end users and customers.


Is Business Source Licensing the answer to the open source bubble?

In the open source space, another problem has been the existence of dual licensing, when it comes to embeddable things.

“For example, Cisco wanted to put in MySQL as part of their hardware and they do not want to use a general public license (GPL) so they pay a license to not have GPL.

“But then you have end user applications. It is really hard to make money with it because no one is paying for it. And if you get paid for that it is basically a very small quantity.

“What MySQL was able to at least create as a landscape for first true open source licenses by sorting what you can do on a GPL licence.

“And that was one of the big innovations that many vendors deploy nowadays, but those people who spend their time to create and advance the technology are not rewarded. ”

The solution? A business source license (BSL), where in theory any company could release and extend the potential of their products in a transparent way instead of closed source or open core and then get the benefit of the community without losing money.

Widenius said: “I hope that there is some sunshine in the end when it comes to creating open source companies who are developing products. That is the biggest struggle at the moment.”


25 years of Linux

With the open source community being very enthusiastic about the last 25 years due to Linux’s 25th anniversary recently, Widenius said that the biggest change he has seen and “also because I was part of it was” that in the beginning of open source and even the beginning of Linux, “everybody did not know how to adopt Linux, at least on applications”.

He said: “Linux has then been pushed forward thanks to companies which have embedded Linux in their products and or products that run on an operating system that they do not have to pay for. For example, Oracle is making more efforts to make Linux even more stable for enterprise usage.

“Linux has always been propelled by companies, and nowadays it is being propelled in embedded devices thanks to Google and other companies that are making smaller and smaller devices.

“I see Linux getting used across all landscapes and the landscape I see the most is data centres.”

He explained that in the data centre space, when companies host people’s data for instance, open source is the way to go because they can ensure there is no trapped doors.

“The security has been proven over time that the open source is more secure and it is better coded thanks to the huge community behind open projects. I do not see and alternative. Look at Amazon, most of their apps run on open source.”