By Keith Larson on Aug 10, 2012
Larson: Thank you for allowing me to do this interview with you. What have you and Continuent been up to lately?
Giuseppe Maxia: Hi Keith. It's my pleasure. I (and the whole team at Continuent) have been quite busy releasing version 1.5.1 of our flagship clustering and HA product, Tungsten Enterprise. Apart from the pleasure of the growing business that makes us all very happy, we enjoy the rare geeky joy of working at a product at the highest levels of innovation and technical effectiveness.
I am also happy, at a personal level, because my current job keeps me in touch with the MySQL community. The products that we develop, both the open source and the commercial solutions, depend heavily on the ubiquity of MySQL. When I dedicate some time to the MySQL community, I am doing at the same time something that I like and that is ultimately beneficial for my company's business. For this reason, my company has no objections to my work in open source projects that I started long ago, such as MySQL Sandbox.
Keith Larson: MySQL Sandbox is great, thank you for that!
Giuseppe Maxia:You're welcome! This one of the many MySQL related open projects that are maintained by community members. The MySQL world is a better place thanks to this distributed effort.
Keith Larson: What were your thoughts when you heard that Oracle was going to provide the community the MySQL Conference ?
Giuseppe Maxia: I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was happy that Oracle has dedicated more attention to the MySQL community, by creating this event. On the other hand, I was a bit taken aback, because the decision to organize MySQL Connect came at the same time when Oracle made it known that it was not sending anyone to the April conference in Santa Clara. I understand very well the reasoning. That conference is organized by a competitor, and Oracle didn't want to help a competing business. However, there were more than one thousand MySQL users at that event, and many of them would have been quite pleased to meet and listen to Oracle engineers.
I also understand that Oracle wants to give the MySQL community a proper home within its conference infrastructure. All in all, I consider MySQL Connect a positive step in the right direction. I hope and expect that MySQL Connect will grow in next editions, and that Oracle will offer an event that matches the scope of MySQL conferences that we are used to in the past.
Keith Larson: Since you are part of the content committee, what did you think of the submissions that were received during call for papers?
Giuseppe Maxia: Reviewing the submissions for this event was a difficult task. We had to limit the entries to the allotted number of sessions (56), and thus we had to leave out many proposals that would have been quite nice to have in a conference. The level of the proposals was quite high. In my initial screening, I found about 90 sessions that I wanted to get in, and the hard was to cut off the ones over the quota.
Keith Larson: What sessions do you look forwarding to attending?
Giuseppe Maxia: Surely I will attend most of the sessions where Oracle engineers explain the latest features and improvements of MySQL products. I will also attend sessions by other professionals who talk about my fields of interest, namely replication, high availability, performance, cloud integration.
Keith Larson: How do you feel the MySQL Community has changed in the recent years ? Do you feel it is different outside of the United States?
Giuseppe Maxia: The MySQL community has grown. In several directions. The community has followed many leads. There were some prophets of doom that announced the death of MySQL. They gathered credit because sometimes the ones who shout louder get more followers, regardless of their merits.
There were more people, including several Oracle competitors, who believed that Oracle doesn't have any interest in killing MySQL, and instead it will be better off keeping MySQL alive and thriving. Which is what Oracle has been doing in the last few years, quite effectively so! The way I see it, the MySQL community is getting the message that MySQL is improving under Oracle stewardship, and concentrating on practicalities rather than philosophical diatribes.
The places where the masses are less inclined to being practical and keep pursuing forks and changes for the sake of it are in the associated communities, those that depend in some extent by MySQL, or where MySQL is an important component, like content management projects, Linux distros, language infrastructures. I often see discussions that say "we should abandon MySQL and use instead a fork, because Oracle can't be depended upon for keeping the project alive." There is no amount of reasoning that can be injected in discussion that start by denying the current evidence, so I know that the community will keep this state of fluidity for a while.
I haven't attended many events in Europe this year, so my feelings are based on what I see online. I feel that the community in the US is being more empirical than in Europe.
My personal stand is that as long as Oracle keeps the work on MySQL to the current level, there is no need to worry for the open source community about the fate of MySQL.
Larson: What features of MySQL 5.6 do you look forward to the most ?
Giuseppe Maxia: The improvement on the binary logging API and replication are among the most interesting ones. There are the obvious advances in performance, which everyone should expect from a new MySQL release. I have tested MySQL 5.6 replication features quite a lot. At the time of my testing (in April), there were some gaps in the integration between the main features. I hope such gaps will be filled in the final release.
Keith Larson: Would you consider the MySQL 5.6 release a major/big step forward in terms of Replication ?
Giuseppe Maxia: MySQL 5.6 is certainly a big step forward. I am cautious about its final outcome, as I have mentioned above, since I wait to see if the new features will become better integrated among them and with the rest of the server. There are great features, but you surely know that MySQL has historically had integration problems with new code, which sometimes resulted in the so-called "half-baked features." I am not saying that this is the case with 5.6, but my first tests show that some features do not play well with the others in the same release. To give you an example: we have Global Transaction ID (GTID) and multi-thread slaves. If you enable GTID, the multi thread slaves still keep track of their work using binary log file names and position. This is the status for 5.6.5. I don't know if it has already been addressed.
Keith Larson:You attend a lot of conferences. What would you recommend for people who attend this conference.
Giuseppe Maxia: There are two main benefits by attending this kind of conferences: the first and most obvious is what you get by attending well selected sessions. The second, and sometimes more productive benefit is given by meeting other people who share your interests, and exchanging views with them. I would say that I have learned as much during social events and corridor chats as at the sessions themselves. The greatest benefit of this conference is the chance of talking with the people who work at the products that we use on a daily basis, and give them feedback about our experience.
Keith Larson: Since your often speaker at conference, what would you consider the ideal audience? What do you want or prefer from them?
Giuseppe Maxia: I am a geek. As such, I love talking to technically oriented users. It's very rewarding when you can address an advanced audience about demanding topics. But I also like explaining things to beginners. I remember my learning curve when I was a rookie, and I try to give my audience what I would have liked to get when I was in their position. So, while my ideal audience is a crowd of hackers, I feel perfectly at home talking to a roomful of motivated beginners.
What I would like from my audience is to be inquisitive, and not to take anything for granted. When I talk at a conference, I often learn something new from the audience questions. For this reason, I encourage questions at any time during my presentations, unless the time is really short.
Keith Larson: So any tips you would give to people for handling the long hours at conferences?
Giuseppe Maxia: The first thing to do is getting organized by knowing what sessions you want to attend. Once you prioritize what you can't possibly miss, you can start organizing the rest of the time. There is no obligation to attend a session if there is nothing that appeals to you in a give slot. No need to feel guilty if you skip one slot to do something else, like visiting the expo hall or meeting friends. However, you should get organized, so you won't waste time.
It's quite effective using Twitter with appropriate hashtags before and during the conference, to find people you know and to meet new ones with the same interests. Reading blogs and forums in the weeks before the conference will give you most of the ideas. For the ones who didn't do their homework, hanging around the MySQL community booth can give you useful information about who's there, what's going on, and what you can do productively in the next 50 minutes.
Keith Larson: What would you consider to be the top argument to persuade a boss to allow you to attend MySQL Connect?
Giuseppe Maxia: It's the conference where we meet the creators of MySQL. If this is the main tool for our company, that's the place where we need to go to get first hand information. Besides, San Francisco is a great place!
Keith Larson: Anything else you want to add...
Giuseppe Maxia: I am glad that Oracle is keeping the doors open for the MySQL community. My personal opinion is that it can open way more than that, and I hope that such further opening will happen in the time being. As an Oracle ACE Director, I feel it's my duty to smooth the path in that direction, by advising Oracle on what the community expects, and by giving objective and useful information to my fellow community members.
I wish to see a 4 days MySQL event next year!