Closing Oracle out of open source?

The complaints and concerns over Oracle’s pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems and open source MySQL database grew this week to calls for the acquisition, or at least the relatively small MySQL part of it, to be blocked. The Open Rights Group calling for such blockage was joined by none other than the father of the free software movement, Richard Stallman. However, I have to once again question how free and open are these free and open source software advocates? Is the movement and FOSS open to all (except Microsoft, Oracle or anyone else the Open Rights Group, Richard Stallman or any other number of FOSS groups or figures so deems at some point in the future)? Sounds like the kind of control and red tape we refer to when we warn vendors against undoing the benefits of open source, particularly openness, flexibility and transparency.

Funny how we were contemplating similar concerns about MySQL’s open source fate when Sun acquired MySQL for $1 billion in 2008. Sun ended up having minimal impact on the open source nature of MySQL, thanks in part to the force and direction of the MySQL community.

Still, would we expect Oracle to do any worse than Sun in terms of supporting integration and continued progress for their new product? I think we would actually expect quite a bit more from Oracle, which has illustrated its ability to both execute and integrate numerous times in the past.

The argument to keep Oracle from acquiring MySQL is reminiscent of the loud calls to keep Microsoft from getting some of its software licenses approved as open source by the OSI. It also has parallels to the restriction of open source software from military and weapons uses. Although it might not be tasteful to all supporters of free and open source software, their very mantras and doctrines dictate their software and communites are open to all equally. Anything less is a contradiction of the core ideology of free and open source software.

We’ve expressed our own concerns about Oracle taking over MySQL, including the idea that Oracle may have a somewhat limited appreciation of open source community. However, in the end, and with reinforcement at last week’s Oracle OpenWorld, the company appears to realize the value and purpose of MySQL and its community. Whatever Oracle does not know or understand about MySQL, its community, its customers or open source, the vendor will most likely learn quickly if history is precedent.

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#2 Kristian Nielsen on 10.21.09 at 2:03 am

MySQL is already very very well established in the areas where it is strong. The main task for future development is to enhance it in those areas where it is weaker than other databases, especially Oracle.

The main concern with Oracle being in charge of MySQL development is whether Oracle will really be eager to lead these enhancements which will allow more users to choose a freely available MySQL installation over an expensive Oracle license?

#3 Jay Lyman on 10.21.09 at 9:40 am

Thanks for posting, Kristian,

We understand the concern, and actually believe it is a legitimate concern for MySQL customers, users and supporters. However, do we really want governments and administrations judging and determining the fate of open source software-centered companies and the intentions of their acquirers? We believe customers and users, particularly those on the open source side, will have most pull in determining what Oracle does or does not do. The market, as always, will determine how deftly Oracle handles integration, support and innovation of MySQL and its valuable community.

#4 451 CAOS Theory » Closing Oracle out of open source? | Open Hacking on 10.21.09 at 4:54 am

[…] post:  451 CAOS Theory » Closing Oracle out of open source? This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 at 11:05 pm and is filed under Linux, News, […]

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#6 451 CAOS Theory » Everything you always wanted to know about MySQL but were afraid to ask on 10.27.09 at 5:17 am

[…] 20: 451 CAOS Theory – Closing Oracle out of open source? “Although it might not be tasteful to all supporters of free and open source software, their […]

#7 Medbob on 10.30.09 at 1:37 pm

Well, now we see that the developer pages for MySQL 6 have been taken down.
To borrow a phrase from Han Solo: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

#8 JohnH on 11.10.09 at 5:42 pm

The irony. Oracle is ninth on the list of named companies that support Linux kernel development. It already owns InnoDB, the only ACID compliant engine for MySQL, and the only one I trust when I use MySQL. The objects just seem silly to me.

#9 451 CAOS Theory » Save MySQL would not spare open source M&A on 01.11.10 at 7:18 pm

[…] can have Sun, but not MySQL’ may make sense to some, but to me it speaks to the irony of closing out Oracle or any company or anyone from open source. Upon further reflection and given 2010 is off to a […]