MariaDB is in a position that might be envied by other developers. Its namesake database has replaced MySQL in many Linux distributions and become a standard part of key software stacks including Pivotal's Cloud Foundry, but what it needs now is greater recognition from top-level executives in business, according to its new chief executive, Michael Howard (pictured).
MariaDB is a community-developed alternative to the popular MySQL database management software, for which it is a drop-in replacement. Development activity is overseen by the non-profit MariaDB Foundation, while MariaDB Corporation takes the resulting code and uses it to market an enterprise-grade commercial version known as MariaDB Enterprise.
Not only has MariaDB Corporation started 2016 with a new chief executive with Howard, a veteran of Greenplum, Veritas and Oracle, but it has also appointed MySQL and MariaDB creator Michael 'Monty' Widenius as chief technology officer. The company has also gained a $9m cash injection from investors including Intel Capital.
Howard said that one of his first priorities is to increase awareness of the MariaDB brand beyond the techie community which is already familiar with it, especially targeting chief executives and chief information officers.
"There needs to be work on the branding of MariaDB. I think very little has been done on marketing so far. The grassroots movement behind MariaDB has made it a recognisable brand in the development community, but for it to make the next step it has to be well known by a different constituency at the C-suite level to make the impression I think it can make," Howard told V3.
"Databases have been primarily managed and operated by people who only know about speeds and feeds, not the people who understand why databases are used and where they could be advanced to make them smarter and to change the very notions of data in applications."
This is key right now because the importance of managing and storing large volumes of data continues to grow. Data is being touted as the new currency, and having the right database management system for the job is vital to the success of applications and services, leading to what Howard dubbed a new inflection point for open source software.
"I call it the new mandate for open source for infrastructure, in that all the things going on in analytics and machine learning, deep learning and the need to have answers in business, are putting MariaDB in a special position in the marketplace in that it's really the only true open relational database system, and it also has a community around it with contributions coming from the biggest companies in the world," he said.
The most recent version of the platform was the Fall 2015 release of MariaDB Enterprise, which extended the database's clustering capabilities, added new data connectors and provided certification for Debian 8. This was based on the MariaDB 10.1 community release that added native support for database encryption.
Referring to the $9m in funding, Howard said that Intel has a long history of contributing to and investing in database technology because the firm sees it as a vital piece of infrastructure for its platform.
Looking to the future, Howard was cagey about any new features and capabilities in the pipeline for MariaDB, saying only that the firm will shed light on its roadmap in due course. However, he did drop a hint that MariaDB may acquire one or more companies for their technology.
"You might be hearing about some inorganic M&A activity from us," he said.
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