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Save MySQL ?

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 11:49


I was surprised to read Monty Widenius's plea to help save MySQL.

On the one hand clearly I sympathize and want to keep MySQL free. I am not entirely sure how that's not already possible given that there's always the option of forking, but I'll leave that aside.

However, I don't really get what Oracle is doing wrong here. In my opinion, Monty should have made sure when MySQL was sold to Sun to get all the things he's now asking Oracle to commit to in writing. Sure, Sun didn't have a competing product. But Sun is a company, and to not even consider that the company you're selling to can be taken over by any other company, or can sell off your product to some other company, seems pretty dumb to me. Who were the other rumoured potential buyers of Sun ? IBM was one of them, no ? They have a database, no ? That database gets hurt by MySQL in the market as well, no ?

So, since I'm just an armchair commentator, I don't really know what to do here. What do you guys think ? Surely I'm missing something obvious about what Oracle is doing.


  1. Oracle did it very bad with InnoDB, so I bet it won’t be different with MySQL.

    I don’t think it would be a debacle that Oracle dooms MySQL (the official one, with all its resources and development force — if any after the SUN management, but that’s another story), but I think it would be great it doesn’t happen.

    Comment by Juanjo — 2009-12-13 @ 12:31

  2. Initially, I thought that selling MySQL to a third party would have been the right thing to do. This Groklaw article presents a different angle.

    Comment by Adrian — 2009-12-13 @ 13:13

  3. White man speak with forked tongue:


    It’s tough to imagine going up against Oracle and looking like the bad guy, but Monty manages it.

    Comment by ThreeCardMonty — 2009-12-13 @ 14:01

  4. A problem here is not the source or even development – as under an open development model, the code could be forked and maintained/modified as necessary.

    All that however can only happen if there are no technology patents used to maliciously hinder the work. I doubt Sun paid £1 billion for just the code and since Oracle has competing products, there is a possibility tht Oracle may demand royalties towards any intellectual property it gains from the ownership of Mysql.

    This of course is only a scenario if Oracle does not play well with the community – and it may, as even now it is developing a new filesystem for the kernel that others seem to also be supporting.

    Comment by You — 2009-12-13 @ 15:43

  5. I’m pretty pessimistic. Oracle has bought a lot of Java related companies recently, most notably BEA, and that hasn’t gone particularly well for anyone. So far their strategy seems to be limited to rebranding and doing crappy integration with their own existing products. I really can’t comment on what their Sun/MySQL plans are, I really don’t know. I hope they’ll at least take a good look at it and learn some lessons from it. As a database, it’s a hell of a lot more pleasant to work with than Oracle.

    Comment by Bram — 2009-12-13 @ 19:27

  6. Isn’t all of this Monty’s fault in the first place? He created MySQL and put it under a dual license so he could get money from it and no one else could. When an opportunity arose to sell this annual stream of money for a boatload of money up front, he took it. At this point, he could no longer make money from it in the same way. As soon as he got the money he bolted from Sun and started up his own company doing the exact same thing they did before, but now they can’t take advantage of dual licensing. If he really wanted to have a long term say in the progress of MySQL he would have either a) not sold MySQL to Sun, or b) stayed with Sun to ensure that the project went the right direction. The fact of the matter is this: when you sell something, you’re usually selling all interest in it in exchange for money — in Monty’s case, a lot of money. You cannot then go around and complain that you don’t have a say in the product anymore and that you don’t like the way things are going. He’s acting like we’re supposed to feel sorry for him and tiny little MySQL2…err…Monty Program. This is his fault. Plain and simple. He could have insisted on these issues when he sold MySQL to Sun, but he didn’t. He could have made it BSD and made money from his expertise, but he didn’t. He could have even just kept the most recent versions of the database as GPL, but release old versions as BSD, but he didn’t. And now he’s angry about it because he’s realizing that you sometimes get screwed in business.

    In the current situation with the EC blocking the acquisition of Sun, there is irrepairable damage happening to Sun and MySQL. Who wants to go with a company that is going to die. They’re not getting many new customers because of this risk. Furthermore, the community is somewhat fractured because the blockage leaves the future of MySQL up in the air too. Until it gets resolved, one way or another, we cannot move on and both Sun and MySQL will wither and die. That’s an situation that’s far worse than Oracle just killing the MySQL product line. Right now, as near as I can tell, the only person doing the screwing here is Monty.

    Comment by Patrick Wagstrom — 2009-12-13 @ 21:16

  7. Patrick: Exactly. He’s even complaining that the client libraries are GPL, when he was the one who changed the license of them from LGPL to GPL back in 2004.

    Comment by James — 2009-12-14 @ 16:49

  8. @You What SUN bought (and what Oracle will get) is ownership of the MySQL brand. That may seem ridiculous, but it takes a lot of effort to build a positive brand known by every CIO on the planet.

    The brand is not GPLed, so if Oracle buys it it can kill it at leisure

    @Bram Oracle does not buy products it buys customers. It is not really interested in making the software it buys flourish as long as it manages to keep the customers (migrating them to other products, locking them in a slowly rotting product, whatever). And that only as long as it takes to earn enough money to buy another company.

    Oracle thinks in captive customer terms just like telcos and internet crash dot coms. Only its grip on customers is stronger that the dot com one ever was on internauts: it deals in expensive products, and people are ready to throw a lot of good money after bad before admitting they invested large sums on a dead product.

    Comment by Nicolas Mailhot — 2009-12-14 @ 20:50

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