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MySQL licensing reduxMatthew Aslett, May 7, 2008 @ 5:33 am ET
After all the fuss it appears that MySQL will be remaining open source after all. As Kaj Arno and Monty Widenius report, Marten Mickos announced at CommunityOne that the MySQL Server will stay open source, as well as the forthcoming encryption and compression backup features, which MySQL had considered making available only to paying customers.
“The change comes from MySQL now being part of Sun Microsystems. Our initial plans were made for a company considering an IPO, but made less sense in the context of Sun, a large company with a whole family of complementary open source software and hardware products,” writes Kaj.
“My hope is that the experiment when it comes to closed source extensions developed by Sun is now ended. As far as I know, there is no existing plans for any closed source extensions to the MySQL server,” adds Monty.
While that seems pretty clear cut, there is still room for a little confusion. Kaj writes: “To financially support MySQL’s free and open source platform, we have a business model which allows both community and commercial add-ons, and we remain committed to it.”
Monty clarifies: “I interpret this, in the context of Mårten’s and Jonathan’s announcements, that we will continue to support and make available commercial addons to the MySQL server from third party, like the Infobright storage engine. Things that we develop ourselves at Sun, at least on the server, will continue to be open source.”
UPDATE – The phrase “at least on the server” is revealing, however. Matt Asay points out that MySQL will continue to develop commercial add-ons above the server, which is the direction as I understand it, and – as I noted two weeks ago – has been the direction for some time. – UPDATE
While we’re on the subject of MySQL (again) it’s also worth taking a look at the slides (PDF) from Monty Widenius’s “Future Design Hurdles to Tackle in the MySQL Server” presentation at the recent MySQL Conference and Expo.
The slides provide a fascinating insight into the technical challenges Sun and MySQL face in positioning MySQL for wider adoption, as well as evidence of the intention to be more open, both about the nature of the challenges and in accepting more contributions from outside the company.
As slide 18 states, the fact that the MySQL community is not currently contributing to development means that the project is not benefiting from the experience of real-world users and that the user base is growing slowly.
The suggested solution is to open up the development process to give outside developers commit and decision rights and to learn from how PostgreSQL is developed. I previously wrote that “if MySQL does choose to develop closed source extensions to the GPL code it will probably have to find some way of balancing that with providing more value to the community.”
It would appear that the development of close source extensions is no longer an issue, but that providing more value to the user community remains a priority. Sun has gained a lot in acquiring MySQL, but one thing it hasn’t gained is an understanding of building a wider developer community. In fact, MySQL has a lot to learn from Sun in that regard – both its successes and its failures.
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