Brian Aker's Drizzle post was the most interesting news to emerge during OSCON 2008. In case you have been on vacation, Drizzle is a stripped down version of MySQL for horizontally scaled web applications and Cloud Computing. Full-blown SQL databases are often overkill here, a point of view espoused by this blog among others.
It's easy to get excited about Drizzle. Brian, Monty, and others define the problem space very clearly and list some intriguing feature ideas on the Drizzle wiki. Just one example: sharding across multiple nodes, which is key to scaling massive reads and writes. From a technical perspective, it sounds cool.
Still, there's a dark side for Sun's database business. In addition to unfinished product versions and storage engines, there have now been at least three announced forks of the MySQL code in the last few months. It is thought-provoking that some of the most respected MySQL engineers inside and outside Sun are working on an alternative to the flagship product. This is the prelude to a classic trap that scuttled Informix among others in the 1990s. Even in the best case enterprise users will find it confusing.
Drizzle illustrates a problem with open source dialectics that has been developing since before the Sun acquisition--there's a big difference between open source to drive technology versus open source to market enterprise products. MySQL is a big tent with multiple products and business models uncomfortably rolled into one. There's no reason not to split them up into separate offerings with appropriate open source models for their respective markets. Other database vendors do this. However, Sun is running out of time to get the marketing right.
Meanwhile, for techies looking at large web applications or for Cloud developers, Drizzle is not confusing at all. It's time to download the code and see what's up. It could be really cool.