MySQL now has two user conferences

Oracle surprises the MySQL community by announcing the MySQL Connect conference, to be held in September

At one point last year, it looked as if the popular open-source MySQL database was in danger of having no user conference. Now it has two.

Oracle announced Thursday that it has launched MySQL Connect, a user-focused event to be held Sept. 29 and 30 in San Francisco, the weekend before Oracle OpenWorld.

Oracle's proclamation comes just before the Percona Live MySQL Conference kicks off next Tuesday in Santa Clara, California. It's run by MySQL software vendor Percona.

That MySQL has two conferences must come as good news to users and developers of the open-source database management system. For the past few years, the fate of the MySQL Conference seemed more and more uncertain as MySQL itself was passed, through successive acquisitions, from MySQL AB to Sun Microsystems and now to Oracle.

After it purchased Sun in 2010, Oracle was mum as to if, like Sun, it would continue to support the MySQL event. Oracle typically folds user conferences for the technologies it acquires into its annual OpenWorld conference. So many assumed Oracle would not continue to organize, or even back, the gathering. O'Reilly, which ran the event by itself in 2010 and 2011, decided not to continue running the show.

Sensing what they felt was a lack of momentum around the event, Percona executives announced last August that the company would run a MySQL conference in 2012.

In some ways, the Percona Live event most closely resembles the old MySQL Conference, which has traditionally been held in Santa Clara in April.

Percona's two-day event will feature a keynote by Mårten Mickos, who was the CEO of MySQL. The schedule is heavy with technical presentations and user case studies, including one from Facebook. The core of the conference program runs for two days, one day less than past MySQL Conference events. But Percona expects the event to sell out, or at least come close to filling its 1,000-seat capacity.

Oracle's event, however, may offer the MySQL user community something that it may need more of: access to Oracle.

While Percona's conference has a lot of great material, it has scant input from Oracle itself, said Sheeri K. Cabral, who is on the MySQL Council for the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) and is presenting a talk at the Percona event. The Oracle conference could provide vital information such as technology road maps and offer a chance to talk with Oracle engineers working on MySQL, she said.

Cabral has been critical of the idea of one company controlling the conference for what is, after all, a community-driven technology. Ultimately, it would be best if Oracle's event and Percona's were combined in the years to come, Cabral suggested. Many organizations will only pay to send their administrators to one conference a year, so having two conferences might dilute attendance and wear thin the speakers. Setting up such a unified event may prove to be logistically and politically tricky, she admitted, given that Oracle and Percona offer competing MySQL products and services.

Percona executives continue to see the value in their own conference, however.

"It's nice to see that Oracle is once again showing interest in the MySQL community after dropping their support for the annual April MySQL user conference two years ago," said Baron Schwartz, Percona chief performance architect. The Oracle event may have some drawbacks, he said. For instance, it is unclear how much input non-Oracle vendors and developers will have at the event, through outside talks and presentations. Also, the Oracle conference is being held on the weekend, not a typical practice for business conferences.

This is not the first time Oracle has experienced a bifurcation of energies around its open-source software. After Oracle took over, the communities around Sun's Hudson and OpenOffice started their own efforts (called Jenkins and LibreOffice, respectively).

Registration for Oracle's conference will begin April 16, when the company also starts to accept paper submissions.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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