FOSDEM 2024 follow-up

What a FOSDEM weekend in Brussels! This was MariaDB Foundation’s best FOSDEM ever, although it wasn’t a FOSDEM at all. Confused? Stay tuned.

A live migration from MySQL 5.7

The highlight in several respects was the live migration of the Cantamen cluster from MySQL 5.7 to MariaDB 10.11.

Currently, cantamen operates a MySQL 5.7 master-slave-replication cluster as backbone for our Carsharing system software solution “EBuS”. We are the leading provider in this market serving some 10.000 vehicles for roughly estimated 150.000 users. Three database schemas with some 550 tables fill about 412 GB of hard disk space on the 128-GB-RAM-equipped servers. About 10^9 queries per day are handled by the primary database server. A number of replication slaves is attached to the main cluster for backup and testing purposes.

As MySQL 5.7’s life time has ended, they need to go further – and volunteered for a live migration here in Brussels, just like we had asked.

The migration went well, with a downtime of less than eight minutes. A fair share of that was spent answering a question from an audience participant, which added some drama in addition to the flakey internet connection at the event location.

After a few moments of suspense, the duality of nervousness and confidence tipped over to calmness. This goes for both Dirk the guinea pig and Monty the developer, although I am unsure whether Monty ever had any real doubts. You will be able to judge for yourself, once we share the videos from the event.

Migration talks and a migration panel

We had other migration cases – with cPanel migrating off MySQL and the story of DBS Bank migrating from Oracle Database grabbing lots of audience attention. Our founder Monty also gave an overview of migration in general. On day two, a panel of all the presenters involved in migration talks concluded our FOSDEM Fringe event.

Money talks and a Cathedral and Bazaar panel

As a Foundation, we stand for all flavours of reasons behind why our users and contributors work with open source. We see a lot of change and variety here, so we consider it important to discuss and shed light also on financial aspects of Open Source.

MariaDB Foundation relies on a thriving ecosystem with developers being paid salaries, so we had speakers representing the VCs behind MariaDB plc, one of which hosted our lunch (thank you Runa Capital!). Patrik Backman of Open Ocean Capital hosted the “Cathedral and Bazaar” panel, with Ann Schlemmer, the CEO of Percona, as a special guest star. This made for a diverse panel, not just with VCs investing in Open Source, but also Ann and the MySQL AB co-founders Monty and David Axmark. As this wasn’t FOSDEM, we took what we see as our responsibility and welcomed the provocative questions.

Awesome Features

There were several good feature presentations, and we will in due course upload all of them as video recordings – and notify you. Let me for now just highlight two of them.

First, Peter Zaitsev, the Percona founder, had a brand new overview about 10 awesome features in MariaDB Server. He told us not to take the number ten literally, and in fact it was more than ten. I think this presentation was indeed awesome, as he shed light on what makes MariaDB Server stand out in particular over MySQL Server from several abstraction levels. For most of his picks, we at MariaDB Foundation thought “great to get external validation of our thinking”, for others, “why haven’t we thought of stressing this”. All in all, a presentation that we recommend highly.

First demo of MariaDB Vector

In line with our coordinating role, we have been working with developers from AWS and Alibaba to kick MariaDB Vector to a start. With their valuable input and contributions, MariaDB Vector has now arrived at a Minimum Demoable Product.

So at our event, Sergei Golubchik and Vicentiu Ciorbaru presented MariaDB Vector on a technical level, including a first running demo of how to embed your own data (in this case: the MariaDB Server help files) into a vector form in a MariaDB Server table, after which the embedded vector data could be queried using a normal chat prompt – returning the data with the shortest vector distance to the prompt. You’ll see how it works, once the video is up.

One vector video is already up – my pre-recorded interview with Jonah Harris, the CTO of MariaDB plc. You can take a look at the 12:18 long video below.

MariaDB Vector: A storage engine for LLMs

MariaDB at FOSDEM itself

We didn’t have just a fringe event, though. We also had a stand in the ULB K building, manned on both FOSDEM days – Saturday and Sunday. And many of us participated at the traditional MySQL, MariaDB and Friends dinner get-together at the ICAB Incubator; thanks to the organisers for a great event!

What felt strange, though, was not having our own MariaDB devroom. Peter Zaitsev wrote a blog In search of transparency at FOSDEM, and indeed, we do not know why our application was rejected. We are certainly willing to improve so that we can be accepted at FOSDEM 2025. I’m sure it’s no easy task to organise an event the magnitude of FOSDEM, and to communicate all the decisions; however, getting hints on exactly how we should improve would be appreciated.

For now and for 2024, let me express our gratitude to our sponsors – Amazon AWS and others – without whom we would not have been able to be present in Brussels at all. Thank you!

Meeting friends and partners

At any rate, being in Brussels around the FOSDEM weekend was superb, devroom or not. Every day had lots of exciting encounters, from planned long lunches to brief chats at the FOSDEM Stand. Like in so many other Open Source projects, also the MariaDB Foundation staff grabbed the opportunity for internal meetings in corridors and Brussels restaurants.

What an invigorating long weekend!

And lots of homework for us – we’ll notify you as our recordings go live.