AdWords - MySQL and the early years.

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A story on the we-used-to-work-for Google blog, Xooglers - ' Let's get a real database' - tells how AdWords started on MySQL, how the AW manager decided that, since it looked like the idea might have legs, it was probably time to buy a big-boy database. So they did, it didn't work, and they (alledgedly) went back to Open Source:

The moral of the story is that sometimes, and in particular with free software, you get more than what you pay for. There are a lot of companies out there paying dearly for commercial databases (and operating systems for that matter). As far as I'm concerned they might as well be flushing that money down the toilet. Actually, they might be better off. We certainly would have been.