updated 02:20 am EDT, Wed August 3, 2011
Using BSD-licensed PostgreSQL instead
Apple has removed access to a built-in MySQL installation in the new Lion Server, released last week, and replaced it with PostgreSQL -- along with dropping a handful of other tools previously supported under Snow Leopard Server, which has caused some server admins much consternation, according to posts on Apple's support forums. Users do still have multiple options to use MySQL, however.
Although the unannounced dropping of native MySQL support from Lion Server is unexpected, it does not leave users abandoned. The MySQL files from Snow Leopard Server can be reinstalled if needed, but those upgrading from Snow Leopard Server to Lion Server will see their existing MySQL binaries and databases preserved.
Users can also take the opportunity to upgrade MySQL to the current version, which was not supported under Snow Leopard Server and is more advanced. Another option (if applicable) is to migrate existing databases over to the provided PostgreSQL, which offers better security and support than MySQL.
As for why MySQL was dropped from Lion Server, speculation abounds -- but leading theories connect it to the recent acquisition of MySQL by Oracle, which is offering it under the Gnu Public License and has said little about future roadmaps for the software. That Apple has replaced it with command-line support for a database system licensed under BSD may hold the answer for the switch.
Another theory holds that Apple is worried about IP issues with GPL software, which would also explain the company's sudden decision to deprecate its own version of Java. Like with MySQL, other distributions of Java now exist that users can access fairly easily if it is needed. Lion includes a message when users attempt to run Java software prompting them to automatically download and install an updated -- but not Apple-supported -- version.
Some have suggested that Apple is attempting to push MySQL and other database makers into making the entire database installation, upgrading, maintaining and extending process more user-friendly. Though MySQL and others like it are powerful, a working knowledge of command-line syntax is mandatory and upgrading or switching versions often proves difficult and time-consuming. An "app" approach to installing and upgrading website tools like MySQL and various languages (PHP, Perl, Python et al) would add a "missing link" to Apple's current server tools.
As with other under-publicized recent changes, the intended audience has reacted with surprise and mixed emotions. Though PostgreSQL is a serviceable substitute and favored by some, the unpredictability of Apple's decisions and the inconvenience it foists upon users who had grown dependent on MySQL fosters an image of a company that may abandon the server market entirely at any time.
MySQL was not the only component "missing" from Lion Server compared to Snow Leopard Server. The new release -- which reduced the price from $500 to $50 -- has also dropped native support for TomCat, Axis, Mobile Access and Apple's own QuickTime Streaming Server. For many users, it is difficult to tell if Apple is simply moving responsibility for keeping such programs up-to-date back onto the developers and users (as it has done with Java and now MySQL) in order to allow users more leeway in choosing versions or branches -- or if it is slowly exiting out of the server market altogether.