Sunday, January 17, 2010

Save MySQL?

There is a call to "save MySQL". Here is the gist of the "worry"

If Oracle buys MySQL as part of Sun, database customers will pay the bill.

In April 2009, Oracle announced that it had agreed to acquire Sun. Since Sun had acquired MySQL the previous year, this would mean that Oracle, the market leader for closed source databases, would get to own MySQL, the most popular open source database.

If Oracle acquired MySQL on that basis, it would have as much control over MySQL as money can possibly buy over an open source project. In fact, for most open source projects (such as Linux or Apache) there isn't any comparable way for a competitor to buy even one tenth as much influence. But MySQL's success has always depended on the company behind it that develops, sells and promotes it. That company (initially MySQL AB, then Sun) has always owned the important intellectual property rights (IPRs), most notably the trademark, copyright and (so far only for defensive purposes) patents. It has used the IPRs to produce income and has reinvested a large part of those revenues in development, getting not only bigger but also better with time.

If those IPRs fall into the hands of MySQL's primary competitor, then MySQL immediately ceases to be an alternative to Oracle's own high-priced products. So far, customers had the choice to use MySQL in new projects instead of Oracle's products. Some large companies even migrated (switched) from Oracle to MySQL for existing software solutions. And every one could credibly threaten Oracle's salespeople with using MySQL unless a major discount was granted. If Oracle owns MySQL, it will only laugh when customers try this. Getting rid of this problem is easily worth one billion dollars a year to Oracle, if not more.

This call is made by Monty, one of the founders of MySQL. I got to say that the boys at MySQL have made a huge hash of things. After selling $1B to SUN, they want their cake and eat it too. So they leave, fork and otherwise raise a huge stink.

The only schadenfraude I have in this is with Ponytail boy a.k.a Jonathan Scwhartz, he went very publicly in PR saying that there was no way MySQL would do a JBoss because "the personalities were very different". It was a direct put-down of yours truly. Irony... JBoss looks like a boy-scout integration in comparison. Good job, Jonathan, just genius.

As for me, the bottom line is kind of straight forward, I don't get Monty. Or rather, I "get him" but completely disagree. MYSQL WAS SOLD FOR $1B FOR GADSAKES!!! IT WAS SOLD! IT'S OVER! At least for the corporate part. Of course, Monty is free to fork mySQL and rename it. If he is unhappy he should. But boy! doing a public campaign trying to block the acquisition, will only add to the public fire of EU scrutiny, possibly shutting down the acquisition and will only hurt SUN and SUN employees.

But here is the part that really bothers me: this is making OSS acquisitions look very dangerous and dicey. JBoss is finally making a ton of money for RedHat (>100MUSD/yr) but after 3 years, a few false starts and fumbles. It was a steep learning curve on both sides. But, so far the MySQL situation is a disgrace and just looks like a huge mistake. Hopefully the VMWare crew does a better and more discreet job of successfully integrating an OSS company.


Niraj J said...

Very true.

With the recent trend to somehow treat OSS software as public property.(Refer Yahoo boss and the mysql stuff) it is only going to hurt the OSS movement. It will negatively impact the OSS acquisition appetite for Enterprises as they might have to bundle in the cost of Liability insurance when in acquisition talks.

Not a good approach.

The OSS route was developing into - I along with others write some software , get some adopotion and then redemption with an Acquisition . Now the redemtion part is questionable.

More here

Sacha Labourey said...

Marc, it seems we are on the exact same wavelength:


ZUrlocker said...

good analysis.

However, one thing to point out here. This whole campaign of FUD is from one ex-MySQL employee / founder; and doesn't represent the views of MySQL employees in general. In fact, many are embarrassed by the whole saga.

Nonetheless, the MySQL business continues to grow at a healthy clip inside of Sun and will continue to become even larger in 2010.


Marcf said...


thanks for the feedback and link, I am glad to see the integration doing well. Congratulations on your promotion.

hingo said...

Niraj: "With the recent trend to somehow treat OSS software as public property [...] it is only going to hurt the OSS movement."

Heh. I guess that pretty much sums up the 2 main sides in this debate. I'm well aware that many out there think like you (like on this blog). Personally, couldn't disagree more, and equally aware that I'm not the only one.

Nikolas said...

Full ACK and one slight spelling mistake: It's 'Schadenfreude' (pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others).

Anonymous said...

JBoss is making >$100M in revenue? Sorry, I don't buy it.

mrx said...

I completely agree. The whole show seems embarassing to me. They sold it. Move on!

André said...

I fully agree.

Aigars Mahinovs said...

The EU is less worried by the open source aspect of this. If Oracle was buying any of their commercial competitors with a significant market share, the EU would have been equally concerned. And here the EU is not concerned about the GPL version of the MySQL, the concern is that Oracle will stop selling commercial licences of MySQL thus killing a competitor in commercial database sector.

Mattias said...

Thank you very much for outstanding analysis. Finally, someone from OSS community raised the voice to defend reasonable business rules.

And what a disgrace for Mr. Widenius to appeal to such "democracies" as Russia and China (I'm from Russia myself). These two countries are the biggest software pirates in the world (it's true, also, that there are a lot of great programmers in both of these countries with huge contribution to OSS).

Andrew C. Oliver said...

Yeah its hard to disagree with you here Marc. More strange is this:

"Q: You are doing your own fork of MySQL called MariaDB. How can you do that if it's so hard to fork MySQL?"

The answer summarized: "Building a business is too hard"??? Huh?

The path to competing with MySQL is simple:

* Compatibility - basic compatibility
* Enterprise features - commoditize clustering (i.e. Oracle RAQ) and online backup
* MVCC - postgresql can do what is essentially MVCC, MySQL can do only 1/2 of it (all updates do row locking)
* BLOB support - MySQL has the crappiest support around
* NIO/non-blocking interfaces and .NET/Java/PHP/Ruby libraries to support them
* GUI tools, especially Visual Studio integration/MSMC integration (gasp)


* OS channel Integration - Integrate with the business entities behind Drupal, Alfresco, JBoss, Spring, etc
* Non-OS channel integration - develop a BSD licensed "lite" version and integrate with major proprietary vendors with a mutual upsell to your real version (especially in records/doc management, CRM, etc)
* Market better features, more active community (ORCL probably will let it die)

So if I can figure most of that out, he probably could too and then why is this his route?

However the real fault here is probably Sun's or their lawyers...