RDBMs Platforms and Airline Seat Categories

So I just finished a weeklong trip to Northern Italy with the family. This was our first time bringing my children to Italy (My wife and I have been twice before, and I used to live in Italy for 3 years while in High School). I am also late in a process at work of bringing on support for an Highly Available MySQL solution. This effort at work is being performed by a group I lead which is made up of Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle DBAs that was recently formed out of two separate teams. As I was on the plane ride home (and trying hard to stay awake) I began to think of the differences between MySQL and SQL Server and Oracle.

Admittedly, we are not through the implementation phase in our MySQL rollout, but we have spent the past year researching and have engaged partners to help us architect and build out a highly available infrastructure for MySQL. As I sat in Economy Class with my wife and 3 children (the last two international trips my wife and I have taken were business class) I started to think that there is a lot of parallels between the 3 platforms and the 3 classification of travel on most international flights (Economy, Business, and First classes).

First, let me start by upsetting some of my SQL Server DBA brethren and say that Oracle is still the first class option in the RDBMS space. The price also reflects this reality. While the starting point for Oracle and Enterprise Edition of SQL Server are not that far apart, Oracle will get to a whole nother level quickly as you add HA and performance features that are already baked into the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server. But for that extra money you get options that just aren’t available in SQL Server (i.e. RAC and Exadata).

SQL Server fills the business class space in this analogy. Some would like to argue with me on this and talk about the value. But really, with all the recent changes to the Microsoft Licensing model for SQL Server pushing you into buying Software Assurance and putting all the HA options in Enterprise and deprecating Mirroring in Standard Edition I think I can win the argument that while there is still a lot of value, it is much more of a business class value point than an economy class one.

Just as in business class, where you pay a bit more for your ticket but all your drinks are included and the product is a bit more polished, buying SQL Server Enterprise Edition also covers 99% or potential needs and is very polished. I still have concerns about Microsoft’s trajectory for SQL Server and what it will do to the product long term, that is for a different post. So that leaves us with MySQL.

So far, I would say that MySQL is very much the economy class in this situation. First, I don’t see MySQL as being free (as in free beer) as some would argue. The support costs still exist. To be successful you will need to wither invest in training an/or support and this has a cost. Second, MySQL has matured to the point where it will get you to the same place as Oracle and SQL Server. In fact, I can make a good argument that MySQL (with Galera) provides a level of protection and performance that is not available in the other two if architected and used correctly. But, just as you have to work to sneak the extra drinks and snacks in economy class, there is far more work in architecting, building, and supporting these highly available environments in MySQL.

MySQL however provides you much more control over your costs. You can choose how much to invest in external vs. internal support. Companies like Facebook and Google pay to have experience on staff able to not only support MySQL but to also modify the code base. Most companies do not need this level of in house experience. Especially with so many companies now providing support for MySQL. For most all that is needed is a trained DBA and access to support from one of these vendors.

Well, that was my great revelation on the flight back from Europe. Now time to go try to sneak some champagne from Business class.