Is MySQL's new hosting program the rise of Sun's new RDBMS?

Today, MySQL rolled out a new hosting program that offers the company's top-of-the-line software and tools, plus 24-hour support, to partners. With Sun's acqusition of MySQL already under way, is this the start of something bigger?

When Sun announced its acquisition of open source software producer MySQL AB last month, many observers predicted that Sun would optimize the open source database to compete more closely with Oracle, Microsoft and IBM. Today, in a move that could be perceived as a first step in that direction, MySQL launched a new hosting partner program that could position it better against its three major enterprise database competitors: Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM.

"Enterprise customers are looking for real support and commitment," said Craig Kitaeff, VP of sales for Logicworks, a hosting partner to MySQL as well as to Oracle, Microsoft, and Red Hat Software, in an interview with BetaNews.

Through the new program, authorized MySQL hosting partners can get 24/7 tech support directly from MySQL, along with access to MySQL's top-of-the-line Enterprise Server and to MySQL Enterprise Monitor, a piece of software aimed at continuously monitoring all MySQL servers to identify and diagnose problems.

"The support and commitment that MySQL is demonstrating through this program are further hammered home to enterprises by the acquisition by Sun, a company that's certainly played an instrumental role in the growth of the [enterprise IT] industry," said Kitaeff, who worked closely with MySQL in giving feedback about how this kind of hosting program would work.

The authorized hosting partner program is geared to giving hosting partners -- which also include providers of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and mobile services -- better assurance of meeting customer service contracts known as SLAs (service level agreements), said Zack Urlocker, MySQL's executive VP of products.

According to Daniel Golding, an analyst at Tier 1 Research, many of the application developers who are now turning to SaaS as a delivery model also want managed hosting providers with strong expertise in managing complex database environments.

When Sun announced plans to buy out MySQL AB in mid-January, many observers predicted that Sun would try to optimize the open source RDBMS to put it more on a par with its all-commercial competition.

Kifaeff believes that with MySQL's new authorized hosting program, the company is showing much more responsiveness to customer needs than he's typically received from Oracle, for example.

"Oracle has, in some ways, a great database software product," he told BetaNews. Customers with really extensive database operations will still need a product like Oracle. "But Oracle has its own way of doing support. And they've been the least receptive to us," he acknowledged.

Logicworks' business relationship with Microsoft is different from its relationship with either MySQL or Oracle. Traditionally, MySQL customers have downloaded the database for free, while receiving paid hosting and support from Logicworks, Kifaeff said.

Conversely, Microsoft customers have purchased software licenses along with hosting from Logicworks, and those software licenses have entitled them to support from Microsoft.

Although Logicworks is the first authorized partner in the US for MySQL's new program, Logicworks has long hosted a number of open source LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) deployments. The new program requires authorized hosters to have MySQL database administrators on staff, Kifaeff said.

On the other hand, 24/7 support for MySQL Enterprise is now available directly from MySQL -- and this is high level, or "code level," support.

Logicworks is not a highly specialized DBA "consulting" service, he emphasized: "That is typically hourly based, as opposed to our [hosting] business model, which provides clients with a predictable fixed monthly costs, [and] also allows us to better allocate resources across our clients. But I can easily envision scenarios where a customer of ours would want to spend their resources on MySQL's 24/7 DBA support, so they'd never have to worry about database services. That's not a stretch at all."

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