Give MySQL a break please

In a unique display of mass hysteria, one blogger after the other and even slashdot (no, I’m not going to link) managed to take the completely innocent message that certain new enterprise features might get released as closed source only and turn it into an ongoing bad press onslaught about “MySQL closing down source code”.

Why don’t you all give MySQL a break here please?  The rule is always the same for everybody: the one that writes the code gets to pick the license.  Listen, I 100% believe in open source and I consider myself to be a big advocate, but commercial open source companies like MySQL (and Pentaho) are commercial entities.  At lease try to put yourself in their position for a second.  For example, if a customer asks you to NOT to release a piece of software they paid for, you don’t release it, it’s that simple.

In the end, what MySQL is doing is simple: they are experimenting with a commercial open source  (COS) model.  Why are they experimenting?  Because the concept of COS is very new and there are no clear guidelines.  It simply hasn’t been done before.  How do you keep growing?  How do you keep paying more open source developers?  How do you pay for the millions of web hits each day?  How do you pay for the millions of downloads, the Tera bytes of internet traffic?  How do you guarantee your long term survival?  How do you strike a balance between commercial success and widespread open source adoption?  How do you keep your investors happy as well as your community?

I guess we learned one thing the past week : it’s easier to spout criticism than to give answers to these tough questions.


7 thoughts on “Give MySQL a break please”

  1. “I guess we learned one thing the past week : it’s easier to spout criticism than to give answers to these tough questions.”

    That is certainly the case. The second problem is that people shout first and look later. Unfortenately I don’t I have readily avaible answers to your tough questions. Lets hope that all the bloggers think of a solution of these problems or at least give a thought.
    I do think it is essential for open source projects to think over these questions. Even if you develop software for free in your free time spreading software is not for free. And than we haven’t spoken over make a living with open source software. Not me I’m just a SW developer on a payrol.

    Good luck
    Timo Hartong
    The Netherlands

  2. Nobody begrudges open source companies making a profit.

    MySQL/SUN are free to chase whatever Commercial Open Source license they choose, and if that includes selectively closing source on some features then more power to them for it. They need to make a buck.

    Users of open source products should be able to enjoy the same freedom, after all, MySQL has enjoyed a great deal of success from the contributions of the open source community. These contributions of code, bug fixes, and most importantly, time, were freely given and they have a right to feel aggrieved that commercial interests will do well from their endeavors.

    The “completely innocent message that certain new enterprise features might get released as closed source” flies in the face of everything the open source community supports. It is little wonder that many will be switching to PostgreSQL to maintain their integrity and open source credentials.

    I wish SUN/MySQL well in their new venture and hope to see them take up the gauntlet in facing the new challenges the web has for them in the future.

    Kevin Waterson

  3. I think that as long as the sales model and roadmap are laid out by the OSS vendor before a customer embarks on an “open source” evaluation, then he (the customer) makes his own informed choice.

    In my experience so far for some commercial OSS offerings:

    1. Some features of their community edition offerings are crippled. It is not until you spend much time and effort that these non-features surfaced.

    2. Important differentiating features (between Free and Paid-for versions) are published in product specific terms, rather than functional terms for that class of software. Evaluators are not able to differentiate between the two offerings until they are very deep into the evaluation efforts, and then finally realised that the lack of given feature(s) are show-stoppers.

    3. Installations for evaluation purposes are hard going because that part of the “install manual” has not been included, or you have to rummage all over the website/wiki/forum to find and answer.

    For personal productivity apps, I very often use free versions which does what I want for the time being, and later buy the professional versions because when I become familiar with the product – when I understand the business value the additional paid-for features offers.

    For an enterprise-class app, the high-cost of getting involved means that if a show-stopper feature(s) becomes evident very late in the evaluation efforts, the vendor of the vendor concerned loses credibility with the customer (and he tells on average 9 other people about it).

    It is even more so if I had to jump through hoops to get the product working in the first place!

    With MySQL, There were no surprises for me here.
    The community versions works very well (for my trials), evaluations, installation and deployments are trouble-free. If they say x, y, z features will only appear in the paid-for version, no problem. I need only evaluate if I need these features and compare with other products, and make a purchase decision at the appropriate time.



  4. Kevin,

    What you’re saying here is “intellectual dishonesty” at best. Since the software they think about closing isn’t even written yet, how can there be any contributions from the open source community? Besides, in my experience, for these high level enterprise features, the community is quite small to non existent anyway.

    As for PostgreSQL: you make such a fuss about MySQL but forget that Greenplum and EnterpriseDB both sell closed source code on top of PostgreSQL. How is that any different from the MySQL situation? Where is the outcry there?


  5. Matt,

    You just repeat the Martens comparison to PostgreSQL and EnterpriseDB but it is a lot different.
    PostgreSQL is truly open source community control project. They have BSD license so companies like EnterpriseDB take it hack it and sell it for their good.
    EnterpriseDB is not opensource company and I do not see it pretended to be, even though I know many EnterpriseDB guys actually contribute back to PostgreSQL project.

  6. Hi Peter,

    This is not about licensing. Both MySQL and EnterpriseDB are perfectly in their right to do what they want to do.
    I know that EnterpriseDB and Greenplum contribute back (probably if the code is not part of their secret sauce), but we both know that this is also the case for MySQL.

    Like Tau said, whatever the case, you want to know in advance what the deal is. Obviously, I do prefer everything out in the open, but again, it’s not my call to make.


  7. I do not think anyone complains what MySQL is not in the right to do what they do. They do what they have right to do and we as MySQL community can do what we have right to do including moving to SQLlite and Forking 🙂

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