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Apple removes MySQL support from Lion Server

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.

by MacNN Staff





  1. Camelot

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Mixed blessing

    In many ways this is a mixed blessing. As someone who runs a large MySQL infrastructure on Mac OS X I can tell you that one of the first things we did when deploying a new Mac OS X Server was update the MySQL binaries because the Apple-provided ones were always out of date. We were also very cautious of software updates since Apple provide too-little information about the updates and were inclined to push new versions of MySQL, Apache, Postfix, and more without notice. A real bear for users who rely on these tools and don't follow Apple's preferred model.

    So on one hand, removing these services from the default installation and forcing admins to go out and get them (and maintain them) themselves moves the onus to the admin who's likely already familiar with this model on other platforms.
    On the other hand, removing these tools from the default set raises the bar (and barrier) for people starting off with a server environment. Of course, it's arguable that they shouldn't rely on Apple-provided outdated versions of software, nor have to wait for Apple to decide to push updates (sometimes critical ones).

    I'm prepared to bet that the majority of Mac OS X Server users who've setup some kind of dynamic web site with PHP and MySQL have never experienced the process of updating these tools to the latest (and safest) versions. Welcome to the real world.

    As for Apple's long-term strategy... as bad as Apple's update process is (was?) this removes one of the clear differentiators of Mac OS X Server over other platforms. If you have to get under the hood and download/compile/install your own server daemons on Mac OS X you might as well go do it under Linux which has much more extensive community support.
    Couple this with the less-than-useless 'Server Admin' tools in Lion which barely puts more than an on/off switch on most services, it's clear that Apple has no interest in Mac OS X Server as a platform, at least from an enterprise standpoint. Maybe for your home junkie for whom dropping $50 to call themselves a server admin is a bargain, but not for real use.

  1. The Vicar

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Perhaps MySQL...

    ...will now begin developing tools to make it easy to upgrade MySQL on Mac OS X? It wouldn't be that hard to build some sort of notification service which would offer to download an installer package for you.

  1. jreades

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Retail vs. Enterprise

    Camelot is quite right here, but I think this development is a reflection of the fact that the underlying mentality of Apple is (and always has been) retail oriented. Apple's enterprise support was always patchy compared to what more traditional server vendors could/would offer and (as noted) their updates often cause collateral 'damage' (i.e. unexpected upgrades) to subsystems not obviously part of a software update.

    There's nothing particularly wrong with this approach in a retail environment, but sideswiping a live server system just isn't what sysadmins consider to be playing well with others. I'm not entirely surprised that the XServe has passed on as only smaller shops (e.g. in design, film) would benefit from Apple's ease-of-use without suffering unduly from the easy-to-blow-away-something-critical side effects.

  1. facebook_Rick

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Aug 2011


    Apple: Buy Openbase

    Apple needs to bring Openbase back home.

  1. QualleyIV

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Wow, actual well thought out comments...

    Rarely are there well thought out or well-written comments on these articles. This would seem to be the exception. I would have to agree that this is a mixed blessing. As Camelot said, if you were actually using MySQL for any serious work, it's not like Apple's install was adequate anyways. In my case, I didn't experience it so much with MySQL, but I couldn't count the times that I've had to reinstall my own (up to date) version of PHP because a security update overwrote it.

    I think the bottom line here is that MySQL (and many of the server apps) just aren't something that can effectively be made user friendly. MySQL, for example, has hundreds of options and settings. Many, if not most, of those are very technical. Perhaps Apple is just recognizing the fact that these things can't be made simple...

  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    MySQL is a dead end anyways

    Given that MySQL was bought by Oracle, who here really thinks MySQL has a future? Not me. I think it was wise for Apple to opt for PostgreSQL instead.

    Why is this such a big deal? Would it be big news if some linux distros dropped MySQL in favour of another RDBMS?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    but why switch?

    The arguments about why to drop it make some sense. However, doesn't this also hold for pretty much every open-source part of OS X Server? Apple's never been much in keeping these things up to the latest security patches, let alone the latest running versions. But then why include PostgresSQL? Doesn't it have the same user barrier, non-up-to-dateness, and other issue MySQL has?

    And, consequently, wouldn't these be also great reasons to drop things like Apache? Apple's history of providing an up-to-date version of Apache with OS X is not well known.

    This seems, to me, more of just a "We don't like Oracle" kind of move than anything else one could come up with.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    More importantly

    While the debate on the decision can go back and forth, you can't deny one part of this that is just plain bad. Apple's 'silent' removal of the software. It's like Apple remembers the good ol' days when people would hunt around and exclaim at the finding of an 'easter egg' in the old Mac OS. And so they go "Hey, let's not tell the user what will or won't work, either in a public statement or even in a reference document. Let them install the new OS and find out that Quicken no longer works, or their MySQL database has suddenly gone silent! They'll love it!"

  1. facebook_Lynn

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Aug 2011


    Removes Licensing Snarls

    As a maker of a competing database, Valentina, Ive had to track MySQL for years. MySQL licensing has always been tricky if you are a commercial software developer. Ive seen big arguments on many developer lists because of he-said she-said claims while talking with MySQL/Sun on the phone. MySQL is not free (as in I gotta pay someone) if you are a commercial developer.

    I think Apple recognizes that both Java and MySQL have been at the heart of many, many licensing lawsuits over the years, and that they can avoid it by not preinstalling it. What a customer does isn't Apple's concern. Postgre is worry free on the licensing front.

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