On the first day of its Connect developer conference, Microsoft announced that it is joining the MariaDB Foundation, the group that oversees the development of the MariaDB database.
Connect is Microsoft’s other annual developer conference. The big conference, Build, takes place each spring and covers the breadth of Microsoft-related development, from Windows to Azure to Office to HoloLens. Connect has tended to have something of an open source, database, and cloud spin to it. At Connect last year, Microsoft announced that it was joining the Linux Foundation. In years prior, the company has used the event to announce the open sourcing of Visual Studio Code and, before that, .net.
MariaDB is a fork of the MySQL database that’s developed and maintained by many of the original MySQL contributors. In 2008, Sun Microsystems bought MySQL AB, the company that developed and created MySQL. In 2009, Oracle announced its plans to buy Sun, creating fear in the community about MySQL’s future as a successful, community-developed, open-source project. To ensure that the database would continue development in spite of the purchase, the MariaDB fork was created in 2009. The subsequent development of MySQL arguably justifies those fears; while Oracle still publishes source code, the development itself happens behind closed doors, with minimal outside contributions.
To prevent MariaDB from suffering the same fate, the MariaDB Foundation was created in 2012. This foundation owns the copyright to contributions and its goal is to ensure that the project remains driven by the user community.
The MariaDB Foundation aims to address one of the common problems with open-source projects: attracting and enabling new contributors. Contributing to open-source projects can often be an intimidating and difficult experience. Fixing a bug or adding a feature usually requires some familiarity with the codebase to know which part of the code needs to be changed. Once this has been done and the development work completed, there’s then work to get the work accepted as a contribution; matching the coding standards of the project, passing the review process, justifying design decisions, and more. The MariaDB Foundation does this outreach in an effort to lower the barriers to entry.
Monty Widenius, the co-creator of MySQL and CTO of the MariaDB Foundation, says that this has been very successful; over the last year, MariaDB has received more community contributions than MySQL did over its entire lifetime. Sustaining this kind of outreach requires money; Microsoft, joining the foundation as a platinum member, will help this work continue.
Microsoft’s involvement will also boost the level of Windows-specific expertise involved in MariaDB’s development. MySQL has always supported Windows, but core developers, including Widenius, are primarily Linux developers, with most optimization and design catering to that operating system. Microsoft’s Windows expertise should, over time, result in an improved experience on Windows.
Widenius tells us that Microsoft has already started to make contributions, with Azure being the focus. As well as announcing the membership of the MariaDB Foundation, Microsoft also said that it will soon offer a preview of Azure Database for MariaDB. This will be a fully managed, cloud-hosted version of MariaDB.