451 CAOS Links 2011.12.06

Data.gov goes open source. GridGain raises $2.5m And more.

# The White House is set to open source Data.gov as open government data platform.

# GridGain closed $2.5m series A funding.

# Digital Reasoning raised an undisclosed series B funding round.

# Contrary to some reports, Google and Mozilla are still negotiating their search and advertising deal.

# Jedox introduced version 3.3 of its BI suite, changing the name of the premium edition from Palo to Jedox.

# MapR announced version 1.2 of the MapR Distribution for Apache Hadoop.

# Xamarin released Mono for Android 4.0.

# Splunk introduced Shep, an open source project that enables two-way Splunk-Hadoop integration.

# HPCC Systems is now providing its Thor Data Refinery Cluster on the Amazon Web Services platform.

# Monty Program previewed some features in forthcoming versions of MariaDB.

# AppDynamics partnered with Datastax to provide application performance management for distributed applications running on Apache Cassandra.

# Gorilla Logic announced the latest version of FoneMonkey for iOS

451 CAOS Links 2011.01.04

Red Hat Q3 results. OSI calls for investigation of Novell patent sale. MPL 2.0. And more.

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“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# Red Hat reported third quarter revenue of $236m, up 21% year on year, and net income of $26m, compared to $16.4m a year ago.

# The Open Source Initiative asked the German Federal Cartel Office to investigate the sale of Novell’s patents to CPTN.

# The Mozilla Foundation began beta testing version 2.0 of the Mozilla Public License.

# OpenSUSE.org published a Q&A with Jeff Hawn, chairman and CEO of Attachmate by Jos Poortvliet, openSUSE Community Manager at Novell.

# NetworkWorld reported that most Android tablets fail at GPL compliance.

# Monty Program released the first public draft of its MariaDB trademark policy.

# Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reportedly ordered government agencies to move to open source software by 2015.

# WANdisco announced plans to overhaul the Subversion project, prompting a slap on the wrists from the Apache Software Foundation

# Both The Document Foundation and KDE joined the Open Invention Network.

# Oracle released version 4,0 of its Oracle VM VirtualBox virtualization software.

# Dries Buytaert shared his perspective on the year gone by for both Drupal, and Acquia. The latter grew by more than 400% and went from 35 to 80 full-time employees.

# Digium announced that Switchvox, its Asterisk-based VoIP unified communications offering for small- to mid-sized businesses, grew more than 30% in 2010.

# CollabNet updated its CollabNet Lab Management cloud-based server provisioning and profile management offering to version 2.3.

# Erwin Tenhumberg published an overview of open source at SAP in 2010.

# Ingres claimed “substantial year on year growth” in 2010.

# The Outercurve Foundation accepted the ConferenceXP project into its Research Accelerators Gallery.

# Canonical and the Ubuntu project released the Ubuntu Font Family.

451 CAOS Links 2010.12.03

New CEOs for Funambol and Openbravo. Funding for 10gen. And more.

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“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# Funambol appointed Amit Chawla as its new CEO.

# Openbravo appointed Paolo Juvara as its new CEO and raised a new funding round.

# 10gen raised $6.5m in third-round funding led by Sequoia Capital.

# Microsoft has reportedly invested an undisclosed sum in TurboHercules.

# Novell reported Linux platform revenue of $144m in fiscal 2010, down 3.2% on 2009. Total revenue down 5.8% to $812m.

# The EC has fallen foul of its own OSS procurement policy with its “quasi-open source” Alfresco implementation.

# Tasktop announced that Tasktop for Visual Studio is now in beta.

# Kurt von Finck clarified Monty Program’s position on the MariaDB trademark.

# Giuseppe Maxia discussed the state of MySQL forks.

# The Register reported that Oracle has not registered the Hudson trademark it is currently attempting to enforce.

# GroundWork announced its Enterprise Quickstart version of GroundWork Monitor Enterprise 6.3.

# ActiveState is offering its ActivePython Community and Business Editions as part of a pre-built AMI for EC2.

# The openSUSE project launched the Tumbleweed rolling update project.

# Alfresco announced the first official release of its Activiti BPM software.

# Dave Rosenberg reported on the latest Linux Foundation kernel development report.

# Sonatype launched Sonatype Professional including integrated Maven, Nexus Pro, Hudson and m2eclipse.

# Magnolia announced the release of Magnolia CMS 4.4.

451 CAOS Links 2010.11.26

What Android is. Novell retains UNIX copyrights. And more.

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“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# Tim Bray explained what Android is.

# Novell confirmed that it will continue to own the UNIX copyrights as a subsidiary of Attachmate.

# Dirk Riehle published his report on control points and steering mechanisms in open source software projects.

# Google Wave was proposed as an Apache Incubator project.

# Canonical denied that Ubuntu is moving to a rolling release cycle.

# Andy Updegrove explained the acquisition of Novell, from his perspective.

# Roberto Galoppini compared the Nagios and Icinga projects and their communities.

# CBR rounded up the reaction to SAS Institute’s derogatory comments about open source BI.

# Henrik Ingo announced his departure from Monty Program amid apparent changes at the MariaDB backer.

# Linux Journal made the case for national Linux distributions.

# Sky released the open source software now running on its Sky HD box.

451 CAOS Links 2010.05.25

What’s missing from WebM? VoltDB launches. The importance of profitability. And more.

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“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

# Simon Phipps examined what’s missing from WebM, from an open source perspective.

# Mike Stonebraker’s VoltDB officially launched its open source in-memory OLTP database.

# Jim Whitehurst argued that one of Red Hat’s most valuable contributions to open source is its profitability.

# Infobright appointed former Aleri CEO Don DeLoach as its new president and chief executive.

# Monty Program launched an Unlimited support offering for a company’s entire MySQL/MariaDB estate.

# Red Hat has announced the availability of Fedora 13.

# Terracotta claimed 100 customers have upgraded to the enterprise edition of Ehcache in the last 10 months.

# Stéphane Croisier discussed the future of open source CMS, and the future of open core.

# Pogo Linux released a new line of StorageDirector Z2 Foundation and StorageDirector Z2 HA Cluster products.

# Couchio started testing a hosted CouchDB service.

# A group of implementers of the open source ERP application ADempiere formed ADempiere Business Consultants.

# Simon Phipps argued the case for the continuing relevance of the Open Source Initiative.

# Red Hat’s Paul Cormier disputed Oracle’s open source credentials.

# BitTorrent released an open source implementation of its µTP protocol.

# Microsoft released two new open source projects for interoperability with Outlook.

# Carlo Daffara discussed the limited potential in trying to convert open source users into paying customers.

# When should you use Hadoop? Cloudera’s Jeff Bean offered some suggestions.

# Andrew Oliver argued that for Microsoft, open source means “Windows Encumbered” although without examples.

# While Mark Stone argued in favor of constructive engagement between open source and Microsoft.

# ibatis has become MyBatis and moved from Apache to Google Code.

# Who will build the LAMP cloud? Or does cloud computing need LAMP?

# CIO Update reported on Red Hat’s plans to commercialize deltaCloud.

# Linux trading system to save London Stock Exchange £10m a year, Computerworld reported.

451 CAOS Links 2010.02.02

Oracle’s plans for Sun’s OSS. The UK’s updated OSS strategy. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

Oracle’s plans for Sun’s OSS
# Oracle’s MySQL strategy slide.

# eWeek reported that database thought leaders are divided on Oracle MySQL.

# Savio Rodrigues and Computerworld on Oracle’s plans for MySQL, other open source assets.

# Zack Urlocker is leaving Oracle/Sun/MySQL.

# Red Hat’s Mark Little maintained that despite acquisitions elsewhere, Red Hat is till the home of open source.

# ForgeRock was formed to provide a new home for Sun Microsystems’ OpenSSO product.

# Continuent, Codership, and Monty Program are planning enhancements to the replication system in MariaDB/MySQL.

UK updates open source strategy

# Techworld reported that open source vendors underwhelmed by the UK government’s open source policy update.

# Alan Lord explained the changes that have and haven’t been made to the UK’s open source policy.

Best of the rest
# Alfresco shifted its Community Edition to the LGPL.

# Marten Mickos is now entrepreneur in residence at Index Ventures, as well as Benchmark Capital.

# Mark Shuttleworth called for a uniform copyright assignment policy for free and open source software projects.

# Facebook has either rewritten the PHP runtime from scratch or is introducing a new compiler.

# SD Times reported that Microsoft has distributed almost all its coupons for Novell SUSE Linux support.

# Brian Proffitt speculated about how many SUSE Linux servers you can buy with $240m in coupons.

# Calpont launched InfiniDB Enterprise, MySQL-based analytic database engine.

# The H asked ‘When is it worth saying it’s Linux?’

# Nuxeo added Studio, a configuration and customization environment to its Connect subscription service.

# Appcelerator claimed to have added 1,000 new developers since adding support for the iPad.

# Opengear scored a $1 million open source deal.

# Telefónica released a number of projects related to its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) clouds research.

# An interview with Jaspersoft CEO, Brian Gentile, on open source strategies.

# Joe Brockmeier argued that Defective by Design is is increasingly out of touch with the majority of users.

# Zenoss claimed 150% revenue growth, pitches itself as a virtualization management vendor.

# Zend Technologies’ Zend Framework 1.10 added support for Windows Azure.

# The Civic Hacker compared the open source policies of San Francisco, Vancouver and Portland.

# GovFresh investigated what the Open Government Directive Means for open source.

# The H reported that CloudLinux has presented a beta version of its Linux distribution for web hosting services.

# Andy Oram explained how trademark law “hasn’t caught up to free and open source software”.

# Pentaho’s CEO claimed the company will double bookings in 2010.

# Infobright delivered multi-server high availability with version 3.1.1 of its Enterprise Edition data warehouse.

# Open-Xchange is offering its open source e-mail and groupware software on a hardware appliance.

# CVSDude became Codesion, delivers on-demand version control offering.

# ActiveState launched Business Edition, providing support for ActivePerl, ActivePython and ActiveTcl.

# Continuent is to focus its attention on the data management of SaaS providers.

# Spanish public administrations are sponsoring the development of Zorb, an open source extension to Nagios.

Everything you always wanted to know about MySQL but were afraid to ask – part three

Since the European Commission announced it was opening an in-depth investigation into the proposed takeover of Sun Microsystems by Oracle with a focus on MySQL there has been no shortage of opinion written about Oracle’s impending ownership of MySQL and its impact on MySQL users and commercial partners, as well as MySQL’s business model, dual licensing and the GPL.

In order to try and bring some order to the conversation, we have brought together some of the most referenced blog posts and news stories in chronological order.

Part one took us from the announcement of the EC’s in-depth investigation up to the eve of the communication of the EC’s Statement of Objections.

Part two took us from there to the eve of the announcement of Oracle’s concessions.

We will continue to update part three, below, until either the acquisition or the EC’s investigation closes.


December 14
: Oracle – Oracle Makes Commitments to Customers, Developers and Users of MySQL
“Oracle has engaged in constructive discussions with the European Commission regarding the concerns expressed by the Commission about the Oracle/Sun Microsystems transaction, and in particular the maintenance of MySQL as a competitive force in the database market. In order further to reassure the Commission, Oracle hereby publicly commits to the following…”

December 14: Commission welcomes Oracle’s MySQL announcement
“Today’s announcement by Oracle of a series of undertakings to customers, developers and users of MySQL is an important new element to be taken into account in the ongoing proceedings. In particular, Oracle’s binding contractual undertakings to storage engine vendors regarding copyright non-assertion and the extension over a period of up to 5 years of the terms and conditions of existing commercial licenses are significant new facts. In this context, Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes recalls and confirms her statement of 9 December 2009 that she is optimistic that the case will have a satisfactory outcome.”

December 14: Jeremy Zawodny – Trust Oracle? Why?
“Back a few years ago when Oracle dismissing MySQL in public while working hard against it in private, I realized that they were simply trying everything they could to protect their crowned jewels: public denials and classic FUD paired with hush-hugh backroom deals. Nobody has managed to explain, in even a mildly convincing way, what has changed since then. Why should we suddenly trust Oracle? Their crowned jewels are still threatened by MySQL.”

December 14: BusinessWeek – How Oracle Disarmed EU Critics
“The most influential provision in assuaging regulators’ concerns about the proposed acquisition may be one of the least noticed. Amid Oracle’s commitments was a pledge to let other technology vendors continue licensing MySQL for use in their products for another five years.”

December 14: Paul McCullogh – Monty’s appeal is selfless!
“If Oracle slows and closes up development, rejects community contributions and creates a commercial version of MySQL, then Monty Program’s MariaDB fork will become very popular, very quickly. Which would translate into income for Monty Program Ab as customers come to his company for additions, features and bug fixes that they need to secure there own production. What Monty is concerned about is the commercial vendors of MySQL (one of which Monty Program is not).”

December 15: Henrik Ingo – We scared Oracle a little, but their promises for MySQL are mostly an insult to the Commission
“5 years, or any amount of years, as a limit to such assurances is not satisfactory and customers and partners would immediately loose interest in MySQL with this promise. The only workable solution has to be perpetual and irrevocable promises.”

December 15: Stephen O’Grady – Oracle, MySQL and the EU: The Endgame Q&A
“Remember June of 2008? Oracle hiked its prices by 15-20% with no detectible impact to its volume. If MySQL was a real, substantial alternative, wouldn’t we have seen wholesale migrations away from Oracle to MySQL? That we didn’t, and continue not to, tells me they’re two different markets.”

December 16: Sheeri Cabral – A MySQL Community Member Opinion of Oracle Buying Sun
“The FUD about Oracle slowing development MySQL are not valid, and not true. The motivations behind those spreading this FUD are monetary and selfish. As a community member, I have seen Oracle put plenty of time, money and effort into developing InnoDB. I look forward to even more of Oracle’s resources being used to develop MySQL further.”

December 16: Monty Widenius – Oracle gives only empty promises for MySQL
“Oracle is trying to win the case through press releases and public pressure instead of really eliminating the European Commission’s concerns. They show no respect for the European authorities or how we do things here. Oracle just want to dictate their own terms and expect us to accept them on face value.”

December 17: AP – Oracle expects EU to approve Sun deal next month
“Oracle’s president, Safra Catz, said in a statement Thursday that the company now expects that European regulators will “unconditionally” approve the Sun acquisition in January.”

December 28: Monty Widenius – Help keep the Internet free
Monty Widenius launches his petition to help save MySQL by claiming (amongst other things) that “It’s not in the Internet users interest that one key piece of the net would be owned by an entity that has more to gain by severely limiting and in the long run even killing it as an open source product than by keeping it alive.”

December 29: Mark Callaghan – Save MySQL, save the world
“MPAB continues to drive away potential supporters with the tone of their messages, the inclusion of pointless assertions, and the complete lack of references.”

December 29: Sheeri Cabral – Save MySQL by letting Oracle keep it GPL
“I cannot say whether or not Oracle would kill MySQL. However, I have already stated I believe Oracle will not kill MySQL. This is based on the fact that Oracle has had the chance to kill MySQL for several years, by making InnoDB proprietary, and has not.”

January 3: David Nielsen – Why “helping MySQL” reflects poorly on us all
“This has nothing to do with the software’s freedom status and given the FSF’s behavior as well as argumentation throughout recent years, the entirety of the inherent freedoms remain intact even when forking the existing codebase, meaning that this is entirely about the right to make money from proprietary use cases of the code.”

January 4: Reuters – MySQL founder mobilizes 14,000 against Oracle-Sun
“Michael Widenius, the creator of the MySQL database and a potential stumbling block for Oracle in its takeover of Sun, handed 14,000 signatures opposing the deal to regulators in Europe, China and Russia.”

January 11: CAOS Theory – Save MySQL would not spare open source M&A
“I believe that separating out open source components, parts, projects and subsidiaries from vendors could certainly serve to dull the shine of open source software assets and vendors amid M&A valuations, prospects and strategy.”

January 15: CBR – MySQL co-founder doubts Oracle support
“David Axmark has told CBR that he believes there is ‘no real reason’ for Oracle to support the open source database application… Axmark added, however, that it is unlikely Oracle will kill off the database and that current MySQL customers should not be too badly affected by the takeover… Axmark also believes that aiming MySQL at a market where Oracle’s existing database applications do not operate will mean that the two can coexist.”

January 17: Marc Fleury – Save MySQL?
“This is making OSS acquisitions look very dangerous and dicey. JBoss is finally making a ton of money for Red Hat (>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.”

January 17: MySQL founder turns to China, Russia to halt Oracle
“Michael Widenius, the creator of the MySQL database, said he is turning his vocal campaign against Oracle’s planned takeover of Sun Microsystems to China and Russia because the European Commission appears set to clear the deal.”

January 20: Oracle – Larry Ellison to Unveil Oracle + Sun Strategy at Company Event on January 27th
“Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, along with executives from Oracle and Sun, will outline the strategy for the combined companies, product roadmaps, and how customers will benefit from having all components – hardware, operating system, database, middleware, and applications – engineered to work together.”

January 21: European Commission – Commission clears Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems
“Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “I am now satisfied that competition and innovation will be preserved on all the markets concerned. Oracle’s acquisition of Sun has the potential to revitalise important assets and create new and innovative products.””

EC investigation of Oracle-Sun enters the endgame

Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems looks set for approval by the European Commission after the competition commission welcomed commitments from Oracle related to the future development and licensing of the open source MySQL database.

The EC has until January 27, 2010, to reach a final decision however it appears that significant progress has been made following hearings in Brussels last week where Oracle made its case for approving the acquisition and opponents including SAP, Microsoft and Monty Program AB argued against the proposed acquisition.

Oracle has published a list of ten commitments that it is prepared to make to assuage the EC’s concerns over the future of MySQL, which were quickly and enthusiastically welcomed by the European Commission.

Oracle’s commitments

Oracle’s list of ten commitments related to the future licensing and commercial arrangements for MySQL, with a specific focus on the developers of storage engines that plug in to the core MySQL database enabling it to be used for specific application purposes, such as data warehousing, transactional applications, and clustered environments. Oracle stated that the commitments would continue for five years after the completion of the acquisition.

Oracle committed to the ongoing availability of storage engine application programming interfaces (APIs) as well as a promise to change Sun’s current copyright policy to ensure that storage engine providers would not require a commercial license to implement the APIs and would not be required to release their storage engines under the GNU General Public License. Oracle also promised that storage engine providers that currently have an OEM license with Sun to use MySQL alongside proprietary storage engines would be able to extend those agreements on the same terms until December 10, 2014.

With regards to open source licensing, Oracle also committed to continue releasing future versions of the MySQL Community Edition under the GNU GPL, and that new releases of the Community Edition would coincide with new releases of the Enterprise Edition product, for which proprietary licenses and subscription support are available.

Oracle also promised that customers will not be required to purchase support subscriptions from Oracle in order to obtain a proprietary license and that users that do opt to pay for support will have a choice of annual or muti-year support subscriptions

Oracle also repeated its promise to increase research and development spending on MySQL, detailing that in each of the next three years it will spend more that the $24m Sun spent on developing MySQL in its most recent financial year.

The company also stated that it would create two advisory boards – one representing end users and another representing storage engine vendors – to provide guidance on development priorities and other issues. Both will be created within 18 months of the acquisition closing. Finally Oracle committed to maintaining and updating the MySQL Reference Manual at no charge.

Commission’s response

The European competition commission welcomed the commitments, noting that the promises regarding copyright non-assertion and the extension of existing commercial licenses are significant new facts to be taken into consideration.

In the context of the commitments Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes repeated her previous statement indicating optimism that an agreement could be reached that would allow the acquisition to proceed in a manner that would not have an adverse impact on competition in the European database market.

Last-minute intervention?

Although the commission responded warmly to Oracle’s commitments, the same cannot be said for Oracle’s opponents, especially Monty Program AB, the company set up by MySQL creator Monty Widenius to provide development and support for the MariaDB fork of the MySQL code base. Widenius has initiated a last-minute campaign to highlight user concerns over the future of MySQL, encouraging users to email the commission detailing their their about Oracle’s potential to raise prices and discourage MySQL developments that would enable it to better compete with the Oracle Database.

According to a recent survey of open source users conducted by The 451 Group, 14.4% of current MySQL users are less likely to use the open source database if it is acquired by Oracle, compared to 5.6% who are more likely to use MySQL if it is acquired by Oracle. The majority of users, 63.9%, will continue to use MySQL. That survey, and Widenius’s call to arms, came before the publication of Oracle’s commitments, however.

The 451 take

We did not expect Oracle to offer any concessions that would see it having to divest MySQL. The commitments that Oracle has made appear to strike a balance that protects the current business interests of MySQL storage engine providers and licensees without forcing Oracle to give up any rights to the database product. The EC’s swift and enthusiastic response indicates that the commitments settle many of its concerns about the future of MySQL. Oracle’s acquisition of Sun is not quite a done deal – we suspect there may still be room for negotiation regarding timescales – but it would appear that a major regulatory hurdle has just been lowered significantly. We now expect the proposed acquisition to be approved sooner rather than later. Oracle can be expected to invest in MySQL and position it as an alternative to Microsoft’s SQL Server at the low-end of the database market and for desktop and web applications while continuing to use its Oracle Database product to compete with SQL Server for high end enterprise applications. Do not expect Microsoft to take that competitive threat lying down. Even assuming that the EC’s investigation is near to completion, the controversy surrounding MySQL is likely to be far from over.

The case against the case against Oracle-MySQL

Matt Asay is right, in my opinion, to point out the inherent bias in the case Monty Widenius et al have made against Oracle’s potential ownership of MySQL. I would go further, however, in stating that the case being made against Oracle is flawed by the fact that it is so self-serving. For instance:

  • I previously noted that the Widenius/Mueller case against Oracle owning Sun/MySQL is entirely dependent on the theory that Oracle will not invest in the ongoing development of MySQL, which is something it has publicly committed to doing.
  • The case against Oracle owning Sun is also based on the theory that the only way for a fork of MySQL to generate revenue is via dual licensing. This is clearly not the case. It might be true that the only way for a fork of MySQL to generate the level of revenue required by Monty Program is through dual licensing, but that is not the same thing.
    .
    It might also be true to say that the only way for a fork of MySQL to generate the level of revenue required to be self-sustaining is though dual licensing, but that statement is dependent on the theory that Oracle will not invest in the ongoing development of MySQL, which is something it has publicly committed to doing.

    The launch of Amazon’s Relational Database Service clearly proved that it is possible to generate revenue from MySQL as a third party without dual licensing. RDS was dismissed by Florian Mueller, in an “information kit” sent to analysts/journalists as being “not a real ‘fork'”. This may be true, but it does not prove that RDS is not a viable way for a third party to generate revenue from MySQL, it just proves that it is not the way Monty Program chooses to generate revenue from MySQL.

  • The case against Oracle owning MySQL is also dependent on the theory that MySQL has progressed to the point where it is a viable “option to replace an existing Oracle installation”. This is wishful thinking at best, and deliberately misleading at worst.
    .
    Ask someone who uses both Oracle and MySQL – Mark Callaghan for example – and they will tell you that despite the advances made by MySQL the two are not directly comparable. MySQL has undeniably been deployed to replace Oracle Database installations, but invariably this is due to the fact that the Oracle Database was not the right tool for the job in the first place.
    .
    Too often IT users use a sledgehammer when a hammer will do, and the growth of MySQL was driven by the fact that it was the right tool for web-facing PHP applications. As we previously noted, Oracle executives once dismissed MySQL as a Toyota compared to its 747. It was a comparison that MySQL used to its advantage. Maybe today MySQL has grown some wings, but it is still more suitable for short-haul than trans-Atlantic flights.

    Perhaps this is missing the point, though. Perhaps without Oracle’s ownership MySQL could become a true competitor to Oracle. The “Project Peter” presentation suggests that Sun thought it could. I am not convinced this was anything other than an internal exercise.

    The only time MySQL executives ever made any statements about competing directly with Oracle, to my knowledge, was during the announcement that MySQL was being acquired by Sun, and senior executives later admitted that was the result of getting carried away. MySQL is fundamentally not designed to to do what Oracle Database is designed to do. If you wanted to create a database to compete directly with Oracle you’d be better off starting afresh than building on top of MySQL.

  • The case against Oracle owning MySQL is also reliant on the idea that “the only proposed remedy through which Oracle could ensure that MySQL continues to be a significant competitive force in the database would be a commitment to divest all MySQL assets to a suitable third party” (again from Mueller’s information kit). However, as Groklaw has pointed out, Monty et al previously suggested to the EU Commission in a questionnaire that the license on MySQL should be changed to the Apache License (Mueller has subsequently denied ever suggesting a license change, prompting this response from Groklaw).
    .
    Additionally, our recent survey of open source users demonstrates that there would be limited market acceptance for the forced divestiture of MySQL to another vendor. Just 4.3% of all respondents and 3.9% of MySQL users thought that Oracle should be forced to sell it to another vendor. This is not about user interests, it is about the interests of Monty Program AB.
  • Last, but by no means least, the case against Oracle owning MySQL is flawed in its reliance on FUD and ad hominem attacks. As Groklaw points out, the case was laid out by alleging that the GPL has the potential to infect proprietary software.
    .
    Things went from bad to worse with the response to Eben Moglen’s view on the case. Mueller wrote that “Compared to Richard Stallman [Moglen is} very unimportant in a GPL context”. Not only that but that when Mueller met Moglen in 2004 Moglen “was primarily interested in obtaining funding (at the time from MySQL, on whose behalf I met with him) for some initiatives of his (at the time “patent busting”, a pretty pointless approach that never got anywhere but some lawyers made some money with it)”.

    Mueller recently wrote (in another email to analysts/journalists) that “lobbying is typically what companies do when they can’t win on the substance of a case”. I hate to think what position you have to be in to decide that bad-mouthing one of the most respected lawyers in free and open source software is going to get you somewhere.

    It would be bad enough if it were only Mueller. Recent Henrik Ingo of the Open Database Alliance stated that Mogen “is working for Oracle here” and “is arguing Oracle’s case best he can”.

    This is at best misleading and at worst (taken in consideration alongside Florian Mueller’s statement about Moglen) a slur on Moglen’s integrity. Moglen’s opinion paper clearly states that it was submitted “at the invitation of Oracle’s counsel, but I am not receiving any compensation, fee or reward for so doing.”

  • UPDATE: Finally, we have Monty Widenius’s plea to his fellow MySQL users/developers in which he criticizes Oracle for involving customers in a competition hearing (and there I was thinking it was all about customers) and takes Oracle to task for not promising a number of things. Many of these he has a point about, but then when did MySQL AB or Sun make promises about the following?
    .
    – To keep (all of) MySQL under an open source license
    – Not to add closed source parts, modules or required tools.
    – To not raise MySQL license or MySQL support prices
    – To release new MySQL versions in a regular and timely manner.
    – To continue with dual licensing and always provide affordable commercial licenses to MySQL to those who needs them (to storage vendors and application vendors) or provide MySQL under a more permissive license
    – To develop MySQL as an Open Source project
    – To actively work with the community
    – Apply submitted patches in a timely manner
  • AND ANOTHER THING: The case also relies on the theory that MySQL acts as a price constraint on Oracle Database. However, as Stephen O’Grady points out: “Remember June of 2008? Oracle hiked its prices by 15-20% with no detectible impact to its volume. If MySQL was a real, substantial alternative, wouldn’t we have seen wholesale migrations away from Oracle to MySQL? That we didn’t, and continue not to, tells me they’re two different markets.” Good point well made.

Everything you always wanted to know about MySQL but were afraid to ask – part one

Since the European Commission announced it was opening an in-depth investigation into the proposed takeover of Sun Microsystems by Oracle with a focus on MySQL there has been no shortage of opinion written about Oracle’s impending ownership of MySQL and its impact on MySQL users and commercial partners, as well as MySQL’s business model, dual licensing and the GPL.

In order to try and bring some order to the conversation, we have brought together some of the most referenced blog posts and news stories in chronological order.

Part one, below, takes us from the announcement of the EC’s in-depth investigation up to the eve of the communication of the EC’s Statement of Objections.

Part two, takes us from there to the eve of the announcement of Oracle’s concessions.

We will continue to update part three until either the acquisition or the EC’s investigation closes.

September 3: The European Commission announces that it has opened in-depth investigation into proposed takeover of Sun Microsystems by Oracle with a focus on MySQL.
“The Commission’s investigation has also shown that the open source nature of Sun’s MySQL might not eliminate fully the potential for anti-competitive effects. In its in-depth investigation, the Commission will therefore address a number of issues, including Oracle’s incentive to further develop MySQL as an open source database.”

September 4: 451 CAOS Theory – The EC is mostly, but not entirely, wrong about Oracle/MySQL.
“Copyright ownership does not just impact the ability to license code, it also provides control over potential commercial uses of that code. This is where it could be argued that the EC could be right to have anti-competitive concerns over Oracle’s future ownership of MySQL.”

September 4: Monty Program Ab Chief Community and Communications Officer Kurt von Finck tells Ars Technica that that copyright and dual licensing is a significant concern.
“If Oracle were to release MySQL under a different license, say the Apache license, this issue would be mitigated to an extent. But for now, Oracle has many more avenues of [MySQL-related] business and revenue than do others.”

September 15 451 CAOS Theory – Oracle *could* kill off MySQL as a commercial product, but probably won’t
“It is impossible to create a fork that can be integrated with non-GPL code (or at least it appears to be.)”

September 17
: Bill Schneider – Would MySQL survive without Oracle?
“MySQL is almost impossible to be monetized. More than 98 percent of the customer base is DIY, and they don’t see any value in paying for support.”

September 22: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison reportedly says Oracle will not spin off MySQL.
“Ellison asserted that Oracle and MySQL do not compete – and he said Oracle has no intention of spinning off MySQL.”

September 30: The Wall Street Journal reported that documents indicate that Oracle intends to use MySQL to compete with Microsoft SQL Server.
“Oracle’s position is that in the market for small to medium-sized business databases, Sun’s MySQL database product, enables the company to compete against Microsoft.”

October 1: Matt Asay reiterates that MySQL’s value to Oracle is about competing with Microsoft.
“Open source is simply a means to an end, and in the case of MySQL, a means to denting Microsoft’s rising strength in emerging markets where Oracle’s expensive database technology doesn’t resonate.”

October 1: Carlo Piana explains why he is assisting Oracle’s legal team to get the acquisition approved.
“It must be passed through as soon as possible, or the company will die. And with it, some of the good development teams that have considerably contributed to the success of Free Software.”

October 8: Former MySQL CEO Marten Mickos urges the EC to approve Oracle’s acquisition of Sun.
“I believe that Oracle’s acquisition of Sun (and MySQL) will increase competition in the database market. And I also believe that if, on the other hand, it becomes difficult or impossible for large companies to acquire open-source assets, then venture investments in open-source companies will slow down, harming the evolution of and innovation in open source, which would result in decreased competition.”

October 11: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison reportedly says Oracle will invest in MySQL.
“He added a new line to the previously four-point list, this one promising MySQL would also receive more money for development and research.”

October 19: MySQL creator and Monty Program CEO Monty Widenius urged Oracle to give up on MySQL in order to land Sun.
“MySQL needs a different home than Oracle, a home where there will be no conflicts of interest concerning how, or if, MySQL should be developed further.”

October 19: Richard Stallman, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) and the Open Rights Group sent a letter to the EC urging it to block Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL.
“If Oracle is allowed to acquire MySQL, it will predictably limit the development of the functionality and performance of the MySQL software platform, leading to profound harm to those who use MySQL software to power applications.”

October 19: Matt Asay argued that EU’s MySQL inquiry may backfire for open source.
“Why should commercial entities bother fostering community–the very community that makes them less susceptible to hostile takeover and anticompetitive forces–if doing so simply ends up ruining financial returns?”

October 20: Matt Asay and Simon Phipps note Stallman’s apparent admission that the GPL alone doesn’t guarantee software freedom.
“The GPL, which is supposed to be the ultimate guarantor of software freedom, may deliver the opposite.”

October 20: Sun Microsystems announced that it will lay off up to 3,000 people.
“The Board of Directors of Sun Microsystems, Inc. (the “Company”), in light of the delay in the closing of the acquisition of the Company, approved a plan to better align the Company’s resources with its strategic business objectives.”

October 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 very mantras and doctrines dictate their software and communities are open to all equally. Anything less is a contradiction of the core ideology of free and open source software.”

October 20: Carlo Piana – Apache what?
“I don’t see any suitable prospect investor which would be able both to pay the bill for this and to safeguard MySQL as Free Software more than Oracle is.”

October 21: 451 CAOS Theory – What about Woman’s Hour? Free speech, free markets and the future of MySQL
“The only possible argument in favour of the EC blocking Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL is that it is damaging to competition, not that it is damaging to MySQL itself. Otherwise we are asking the EC to rule on whether Oracle is open source-friendly enough to own MySQL, and that is neither something that an organisation like the EC is equipped to answer nor something that it should be asked to decide.”

October 21: Groklaw – Reasons I Believe the Community Should Support the Oracle-Sun Deal
“The most important reason is that opponents are trashing the GPL and calling it a source of “infection” in their FUD submission to the EU Commission.”

October 21: Kirk Wylie – Monty, Stallman, MySQL, Oracle, and Sun: Open Letter Wars
“Unfortunately, saying that you personally dislike something doesn’t provide a valid reason to block an acquisition on competition grounds. Saying that you don’t trust Oracle doesn’t alter the marketplace in a way that disadvantages customers as a whole. Saying that nobody else could make money by selling commercial licenses for MySQL doesn’t mean someone else must be allowed to.”

October 21: An EC spokesperson told The BBC that Oracle has not produced any evidence to ease its concerns.
“Oracle had failed to produce, despite repeated requests, either hard evidence that there were no competition problems or, alternatively, proposals for a remedy to the competition problems identified by the Commission.”

October 21: Tim Bray – The EU and MySQL
“If, in a merger or acquisition, partial control over a financially-insignificant Open-Source project can now be expected to result in many months of anti-trust review, that’s going to have a massive negative effect on the viability of M&A transactions all over the technology landscape.”

October 21: Jeremy Zawodny – Oracle and MySQL
“I haven’t yet seen anyone explain what motivation Oracle has for pouring resources into MySQL, especially if it eats away at their DBMS business on the low end.”

October 22: Ed Burnette – Stallman admits GPL flawed, proprietary licensing needed to pay for MySQL development
“Even if MySQL were owned by Oracle because of its purchase of Sun, the database would still be Free Software. Anyone could use the source code, build their own version, and distribute it to others. But finally Stallman has recognized that may not be good enough because somebody has to pay for this stuff.”

October 22
: Brian “Krow” Aker – RMS, GPL, The Peculiar Institution of Dual Licensing
“Dual licensing forces any developer who wishes to contribute into a position of either giving up their rights and allowing their work to end up in commercial software, or creating a fork of the software with their changes. In essence it creates monopolies which can only be broken via forking the software.”

October 22: New York Times – Weak Points of Sun Deal Come Out in Europe
“The Sun/Oracle acquisition agreement includes no requirement that Oracle make any asset sales or agreements on its business to assuage regulators… Oracle is not required to complete the transaction unless it specifically obtains the European Union’s antitrust approval.”

October 23: Stephen O’Grady – Oracle, MySQL and the EU: The Q&A
“Given that Oracle has a negligible presence in the markets that Microsoft has been successful in, then, I think they’ll be the primary target. Meaning that competition shouldn’t be much of an issue.”

October 23: Karsten Garloff – The case for independence – Oracle, Sun and what to do with MySQL
“The present danger for MySQL shows how dependence on a single company (brought about by a dual-licensing strategy) puts even the most successful projects at risk.”

October 24: Monty Widenius – The importance of the license model of MySQL or Can MySQL be killed?
“It’s possible to create companies doing support for MySQL, but without the economics, there will not be enough money and incentive to pay enough for the development of MySQL to satisfy the requirement of all the MySQL users.”

October 24: JavaWorld – Who Should Oracle Sell MySQL To?
“It’s easy to suggest that Oracle should sell to a “suitable third party?” That’s just talk. The potentially significantly more difficult thing might be to actually find a buyer that meets the definition of “suitable” to all involved.”

October 25: Sacha Labourey – SUN vs./and ORCL: the failure of the dual licensing model?
“Some of the ex-MySQL co-founders who now ask for ORCL to let MySQL go are responsible for the current situation: their choice of a dual license business model years ago is what led to the current situation … but also what led MySQL to a 1B valuation. You cannot have it both ways I guess.”

October 25: Brian Aker asks Richard Stallman about MySQL and the GPL at foss.my 2009

October 26: eWeek – EU Strategist Claims an Oracle-owned MySQL Cannot Be Competitive
“It is legally possible but not viable [for Oracle] to be an innovative competitive force [by owning MySQL].”

October 28: Kirk Wylie – Monty’s Almost Certainly Looking for Investment
“I think… Florian is attempting to drum up a capital raise to acquire the MySQL IP to make the problem go away for Oracle, and to convince Oracle and Sun shareholders that Monty and Florian will do whatever it takes to block the acquisition so that they’ll tell Larry to let go.”

October 28: Carlo Piana – Send the GNU GPL to the Amazonia
“Amazon [Relational Database Service] gives us the best evidence that MySQL can be “monetized” by offering it in a Software As a Service setting. This can happen with GNU GPL licensed software and without receiving any special permission from the copyright holder, contradicting all claims that there is no viable way to fund development of a Free Software project without a dual license.”

October 29: Oracle updated its its Sun acquisition FAQ to include plans for Glassfish, Netbeans, MySQL and Openoffice.org
“Oracle plans to spend more money developing MySQL than Sun does now. Oracle expects to continue to develop and provide the open source MySQL database after the transaction closes. Oracle plans to add MySQL to Oracle’s existing suite of database products, which already includes Berkeley DB, an open source database. Oracle also currently offers InnoDB, an open source transactional storage engine and the most important and popular transaction engine under MySQL. Oracle already distributes MySQL as part of our Enterprise Linux offering.”

November 2
: MySQL rival was Oracle not Microsoft-Widenius
“The largest and the most common rival was Oracle. In every deal we were competing against Oracle… there is very little money to be made on the Windows side for MySQL. They are not going to make a profit there. The big money is on the Linux side where MySQL already successfully competes with Oracle, and where MySQL has put all their efforts during the last 10 years.”

November 4
: Financial Times – Oracle braced for EU objection on Sun deal
“The US software company has refused to offer any concessions to European regulators to meet their concerns about the deal, according to one person close to the process. That has left Brussels close to issuing an official statement of objections, the first step on the path to blocking it, this person added… Some suggest that Oracle has little to lose by waiting to see Brussels’ precise concerns. It would then still have time to offer concessions or try to mount a legal fight.”

November 4: Matt Asay – Amazon’s move mocks EU’s fear of Oracle
“Amazon’s RDS proves that strong, viable competitors to MySQL can arise from within the MySQL community, which disproves the EC’s argument that Oracle’s control of MySQL will somehow crush competition.”

November 4: Forbes – What If Larry Leaves Sun At The Altar?
“The main deal protection for Sun shareholders is a breakup fee of $260 million, plus up to $45 million in expenses. By way of comparison, that’s about how much Oracle earns every 20 days.”

November 5: John Mark Walker – Open Source: More than a License
“The remarkable thing about the Oracle – MySQL case is that it forces us to put up or shut up in a realistic, fact-based way not clad in ideological robes. Whatever your opinions, you now have a test case against which to apply them. In the past, I decried the software freedom debate as much ado about nothing – the 21st century equivalent of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But now we see it in real-world terms where something tangible is at stake.”

November 5: New York Times – E.U. Faces Tricky Decision on Oracle Deal
“The dilemma has prompted speculation that the best outcome for Ms. Kroes would be for Oracle to drop its interest in buying Sun, relieving the regulators of the need to make a choice.”

November 5: Wall Street Journal – SAP’s ‘Invitation’ to Oracle
“On September 15, less than two weeks after the Commission launched its extended probe, SAP CEO Leo Apotheker wrote a letter to Oracle’s Larry Ellison. The letter, which we have seen and hasn’t previously been reported on, reads in full: “As you know, we have significant concerns about Oracle’s proposed takeover of Sun. We renew our invitation to meet to attempt to resolve our concerns and other open issues between our companies. Please let us know if and when you would like to meet.””

November 6: eWeek – Former CEO: MySQL’s Installed Base Will Keep it Independent
“”MySQL most certainly competes with Oracle,” Mickos said. “And successfully so. But what must be remembered in terms of dollars in that competition, it is not significant enough to warrant an antitrust consideration… “I don’t specifically have an opinion on where it should be,” Mickos told eWEEK. “I’m just saying that there’s no rational argument for not letting the company who’s buying Sun, have all of Sun.””

Continue to part two.

Oracle *could* kill off MySQL as a commercial product, but probably won’t

Before I even start this post I am going to repeat our view that Oracle is well aware that it has little to gain from killing off MySQL and that we expect MySQL to become the scale-out database for non-transactional web applications and to compete with SQL Server in departmental deployments.

That said there has been some interesting discussion on Twitter this week in response to the European Commission’s investigation of Oracle-Sun about whether Oracle could – in theory – kill off MySQL. Here’s a Q+A explaining my view as to how Oracle could kill MySQL but probably won’t, and why MySQL AB’s choice of dual licensing and the GPL has come back to haunt Monty Widenius.

Q. Oracle can’t kill MySQL even if it wants to, because its open source. Right
?

A. Not really. The existing code will always be under the GPL but Oracle is under no obligation to release future developments under the GPL. It could theoretically continue to develop MySQL as a proprietary product, leaving the GPL version behind. Other developers and vendors could take the GPL code and continue its development, but they would be limited in their commercial exploitation of it.

Q. How so?

A. As Monty Program AB Chief Community and Communications Officer Kurt von Finck explained to Ars Technica, “MySQL’s licensing model gives the copyright holder a higher level of control than the rest of the community and the exclusive ability to provide certain kinds of products and services that third-party vendors cannot.” As the sole owner of the MySQL copyright Oracle would have the ability to decide who could license the code commercially for integration with non-GPL code, for example.

Q. Who does that impact?

A. As previously discussed, Oracle would theoretically have the ability to impact products that enable MySQL to better compete with Oracle’s database products, such as ScaleDB, Tokutek, Infobright and Kickfire.

Q. But that is a commercial contract issue isn’t it? What does it have to do with open source?

A. True, this is not really an open source issue but a copyright issue. However, the combination of GPL and copyright ownership also impacts the ability to fork – one of the apparent benefits of open source. Monty Program is free to build a business around MySQL but its commercial opportunities are limited. As Von Finck told Are Technica: “Anything we do will have to be GPLed. Oracle does not have this constraint.”

Q. That’s a bit tough on Monty Program isn’t it?

A. Not really, since its founder also created MySQL and was a member of MySQL AB, the company that decided to use the GPL and dual licensing to enjoy the benefits of the open source distribution model while restricting the ability of would-be forkers to compete. Oracle would simply being enjoying the same benefits of copyright ownership as MySQL AB.

Q. So it’s impossible to create a fork of MySQL then?

A. No, but it is impossible to create a fork that can be integrated with non-GPL code (or at least it appears to be – ScaleDB’s Mike Hogan has argued that it can be done via an open source intermediary layer, Monty Widenius believes vendors would need a commercial MySQL license). A company would be able to fork MySQL without the commercial opportunities however – Monty Program already has.

Q. So commercial licensing isn’t necessary to create a business around MySQL?

A. Not necessarily no. Non-GPL licensing drove the bulk of MySQL AB’s early revenue but, according to the company’s former CEO, Marten Mickos, in later years more money came from support subscriptions. A company like Red Hat, for example, could therefore take the code and create a pure open source subscription business – but it would have to invest in hiring the best MySQL developers and support engineers to differentiate it from the other MySQL support providers, and it wouldn’t be able to use the MySQL brand.

Q. Why?

A. Because Oracle owns the MySQL trademark. Hence Monty Program’s version of MySQL is MariaDB. This is also an impediment to the ability to fork, although not as significant as copyright in my opinion. MariaDB already has a significant profile.

Q. What about Drizzle, that’s under the BSD license isn’t it? And copyright for contributions are owned by the contributors.

A. That is true of community contributions, according to the FAQ. But according to the discussion in this thread, the copyright for the majority of the code is owned by Sun and only Sun can sell non-GPL licenses for it. When Oracle acquires Sun, it will assume that ownership. Arguably, if the Drizzle developers wanted to prevent Sun/Oracle from selling non-GPL licenses, they should have used the GPL for community contributions along with distributed copyright ownership.

Q. How so?

Because then Sun/Oracle would have to get the permission of the copyright owners to offer it under a non-GPL license. It has no such requirements for BSD code.

Q. How has this happened? I thought the right to fork was a key benefit of open source.

A. It is, unless the license is GPL and the copyright for the code is wholly owned by a single vendor or individual, in which case the vendor or individual has rights that are not available to would-be forkers.

Q. So is this situation unique to MySQL?

A. So far. At least in terms of the fact that the project is about to be acquired by a rival, and the creator of the original project is trying to create his own fork – and would apparently like to have the same commercial opportunities as the copyright owner. But this could theoretically happen to any project licensed under the GPL where the copyright for the code is wholly owned by a single vendor.

Q. So could Oracle kill off MySQL or not?

A. The community project, no. The commercial product, yes – if it wanted to.

Q. And does it want to?

A. As stated above, our view is that Oracle is well aware that it has little to gain from killing off MySQL and that we expect MySQL to become the scale-out database for non-transactional web applications and to compete with SQL Server in departmental deployments.

Q. But?

A. If Oracle is planning to invest in the long-term future of MySQL it could put an end to this speculation by at least hinting at what it plans to do with it, as it has with its advert regarding Sun’s hardware and operating system.

Q. Assuming Oracle did want to kill MySQL as a commercial product – can an open source community project survive a hostile acquisition?

A. We considered this question in a recent 451 Group report (clients only). One of the problems with testing this theory is that there have been very few, if any, hostile mergers or acquisitions of open source software vendors to learn from. There are some clues from looking at the history of commercial open source vendors that have ceased trading, leaving the open source projects to live on via SourceForge.

Q. And?

A. When Mindquarry, shut down the firm’s founders were all hired by Day Software, and stated that as long as there was an active community, they intended to continue their commitment to the software. SourceForge statistics for the project indicate that it has been inactive since the day it was registered. Similarly, the Ringside Social Application Server software may have outlived its corporate sponsor, which closed its doors in October 2008, but it has not been updated since July 2008, according to SourceForge statistics. On the other hand, openQRM continues to be an active project with more than 35 developers led by maintainer Matt Rechenburg, despite the closure of Qlusters in July 2008.

Q. What differentiates openQRM from Mindquarry and Ringside?

A. A committed project leader and an active community of developers. We would expect MySQL (or MariaDB) to enjoy both, and at a scale that dwarfs that of openQRM.

Q. This is all very theoretical.

A. Yes it is, but it highlights the importance of thinking through the long-term implications of licensing and copyright assignment. If you don’t want to end up in the situation faced by Monty Program, don’t go GPL with full copyright assignment.

451 CAOS Links 2009.09.08

Reaction to EC’s Oracle-Sun delay. OIN to acquire ex-Microsoft patents. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

Reaction to EC’s Oracle-Sun delay
Despite widespread criticism of the European Commission’s decision to open a formal investigation into Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun, Glyn Moody maintained that the EC deserves credit for making open source a central part of its analysis. Meanwhile Monty Program (by way of Steven J Vaughan Nicholls) explained why the EU should block Oracle/Sun, Roberto Galoppini reported that “the EU has a chance to put our European money where its mouth is”, and Matt Asay speculated whether Oracle might end up getting Sun at a 50% discount.

Best of the rest
# WSJ.com reported that the OIN is about to acquire 22 patents previously owned by Microsoft.

# An EU report on the economic impact of software in EU 27 states indicated that open source software had a market value of €3.4B in 2008, up 57.7%.

# Univa UD announced the native OpenSolaris version of UniCluster.

# Reuven Cohen speculated as to who is behind the new Open vSwitch VLan and virtual private cloud project.

# TomTom introduced OpenLR, open-source, royalty-free dynamic location referencing technology.

# The President of Brazil said ‘Using free software improves relation between state and society’.

# LinuxInsider reported that it is boom time for FOSS.

# Phoronix published a few details On Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.

# ZDnet UK reported that Red Hat hypervisor management tools will run on Windows only.

# Roberto Galoppini profiled RiverMuse’s community building process.

The EC is mostly, but not entirely, wrong about Oracle/MySQL

By now you are probably aware that the European Commission has decided to launch an extended investigation into Oracle’s acquisition of Sun based on concerns over MySQL.

The new has prompted a lot of criticism of the EC, much of it suggesting that the delay will do considerable harm to Sun (and therefore Oracle). This argument is valid – Sun’s already declining revenue has been in freefall since the deal was announced and one wonders how far it will fall in another 90 days of stasis.

Other criticism, (such as this from Matt Asay) focuses on the suggestion that the delay will do little to help MySQL or its users, and that the EC fails to understand open source.

This also has some validity. The EC talks about “Oracle’s incentive to further develop MySQL as an open source database” but as Matt points out “even Oracle can’t put the open-source genie back in the bottle once it has been released, as MySQL has, under the GNU General Public License.”

This is true. although I would argue, that Oracle’s potential control over MySQL is not about licensing, but copyright. The FT states that Oracle “doesn’t control the IP, since the software is available under the GPL”. That is not entirely true. The existing code will always be under the GPL but as the copyright for that code would be fully-owned by Oracle it is under no obligation to release future developments under the GPL.

I do not expect that to happen, but copyright ownership does not just impact the ability to license code, it also provides control over potential commercial uses of that code. This is where it could be argued that the EC could be right to have anti-competitive concerns over Oracle’s future ownership of MySQL (even if it doesn’t understand why, or hasn’t articulated that it does).

Criticism of the EC has also suggested that it is disproportionately focusing on a products with a tiny market share. There are various suggestions as to quite how small MySQL’s market share is, with the WSJ citing 0.2%, but also 1.5%, AHN 0.04%, the FT “around half a percentage point”.

What all these reports overlook is that MySQL’s influence is much greater than its market share, not only in terms of more widespread unpaid usage, but also in terms of the ecosystem of vendors that are building products based on MySQL to tap into its widespread adoption.

Examples include Kickfire, Infobright and Calpont in data warehousing, ScaleDB in shared-disk clustering, Tokutek in Web-application querying, and Schooner Information Technology and Virident Systems in caching appliances.

All of these products enable mySQL to better compete with Oracle’s database products, and many of these have commercial relationships with Sun that enable them to use MySQL in proprietary products (while Infobright is itself open source, it also has a relationship with Sun).

Calpont also plans to offer an open source data warehouse based on MySQL but has put is plans on hold while it waits to see what Oracle will do with the MySQL database. Calpont’s concern is that Oracle will choose not to promote commercial relationships that use MySQL to compete more directly with Oracle’s Database business.

The MariaDB fork provides a potential alternative for these vendors, but as we previously discussed on this blog there are questions as to whether closed-source MySQL storage engines are compatible with MariaDB.

As noted in that post, ScaleDB’s Mike Hogan has argued that it can be done via an open source intermediary layer (and given that ScaleDB does not have a commercial arrangement with Sun, the company will be hoping that its analysis is correct), but MariaDB and MySQL creator Monty Widenius is not convinced: “This can only be done by buying MySQL licenses from Sun for each copy of MariaDB that is distributed.”

If Monty is correct then Oracle’s impending ownership of MySQL could theoretically have a significant impact on the emerging market for commercial products based on MySQL and their ability to compete with the Oracle Database.

As we noted in a report on the wider implications of Oracle’s impending ownership of MySQL (451 subscribers only) “For the commercial arrangements between these vendors and Oracle to survive, they will have to show that they can provide value to MySQL without impacting Oracle.”

Is that anti-competitive? Perhaps. I would argue that it certainly warrants further investigation.

UPDATE
I’ve just been asked a question on this that has highlighted something else I was thinking about this morning: BusinessWeek reports that “Oracle could spin off or sell the business to satisfy regulators if necessary”.

I do not think that Oracle would be prepared to do that – we previously argued that MySQL represents a more significant business opportunity for Oracle alive than dead – nor do I think it would need to do so if the issue was Oracle’s relationship with the ecosystem of commercial vendors using MySQL to compete with the Oracle Database.

Oracle could get around that without needing to sell MySQL by contributing the code and the copyright to an independent foundation, which would also have the side benefit of increasing developer involvement in the project following the departure of many MySQL developers from Sun. Oracle would of course retain the support and service expertise.

Just a thought.
UPDATE

2ND UPDATE
Monty Program AB, which has been bending the ears of regulators about Oracle-Sun as well as creating MariaDB, suggests to Ars Technica that copyright and dual licensing is a significant concern.

“Monty Program Ab Chief Community and Communications Officer Kurt von Finck… points out that MySQL’s licensing model gives the copyright holder a higher level of control than the rest of the community and the exclusive ability to provide certain kinds of products and services that third-party vendors cannot. This means that Oracle’s acquisition of Sun would still have significant implications for competition in the database market.”

Of course this comment comes from the company set up by the creator of MySQL, Monty Widenius, who no doubt trousered a significant share of $1bn based on MySQL AB’s successful exploitation of the dual licensing model and copyright ownership.

As Kirk Wylie has said: “Look At The Balls On That Guy”!
2ND UPDATE

Q&A: MariaDB and the Open Database Alliance

Following the launch of the Open Database Alliance a number of interesting reports were published that examined its role in establishing MariaDB as an alternative development branch for MySQL and as a vendor-neutral open source database collective.

I had a few questions myself, which Monty Widenius and Peter Zaitsev, CEO of Percona, were good enough to answer for me via email. They also agreed for the exchange to be published here. This is what they had to say:

Q: Monty has stated that the intention is to open up the Alliance to include other open source database projects – any indication of how this would be done given the diverse requirements and different development directions of Maria, PostgreSQL etc?

PZ: I think it is great because the direction for each Open Source databases is different — one size does not fits all – there are cases where MySQL, PostgreSQL or SQLite excel. The vision for the Alliance is to have healthy competition which in the end drives the best solution for the customer. Even in the MySQL landscape there is an overlap – Innodb, XtraDB, Maria, PBXT, Falcon — and each desires to be the leading transactional storage engine. This does not stop most of them from sharing ideas between each other and acknowledging each other’s advantages and drawbacks.

MW: As the Open Database Alliance is business alliance, not a development alliance, there shouldn’t be many conflicts. There is a lot of companies already that give support for both PostgreSQL and MySQL and there is no reason this should change. As Peter pointed out, different databases have different optimal usage cases and one should always choose the best tool for the job. I also envision that the Open Database Alliance will contain developer companies, like Monty Program Ab and PostgreSQL Experts Inc, but these should be able to co-exist inside the Alliance as it’s greatly benefiting the Alliance members to have them there.

Q. What chance is there for vendors of closed source MySQL storage engines to become part of the open database alliance?

PZ: I think there is significant uncertainty about this one. It is unclear if MariaDB will be able to exist in close source version (via licensing fees to Sun/MySQL) or not. It is also not quite clear how GPL will work in this case – In theory with an open interface and plugin infrastructure it may be possible to distribute commercial storage engines (separately from MariaDB) and let users use them with GPL servers same as commercial drivers are used with a Linux Kernel.

MW: This can only be done by buying MySQL licenses from Sun for each copy of MariaDB that is distributed.

Q. Assuming Oracle maintains the development of MySQL (as it has InnoDB) would Oracle’s membership of the Open Database Alliance be necessary for it to fulfill its goal to “unify all MySQL-related development and services”? Will Oracle be offered membership?

PZ: The membership is open to all entities sharing the vision and the goals. When Oracle will be willing to participate is a good question.

MW: Anyone can join if they are prepared to follow the rules of the Alliance. As one of the goals of the Alliance is to promote MariaDB as the community developed version of MySQL, I don’t know if Oracle would want to join. I have, however, offered Oracle a partnership with Monty Program Ab, under which Oracle could get access to some of the critical developer resources Monty Program Ab has available. Monty Program Ab could also help Oracle with their open source strategy and serve as a ‘trust creating’ entity between Oracle and the open source developer community. Oracle has however not yet responded to this.

Q: Can you provide any insight in to the process for creating a formal structure or governance model for the alliance?

PZ: This is under much discussion. It is difficult to speculate until it is ready.

MW: The idea is to initially invite a small group of steering members to the Alliance and together work out rules that we think will make most sense to us and to the Alliance’s future members. This is work in progress.

Q: Will MariaDB attempt stay in lock step with future MySQL updates and developments, or is MariaDB taking a separate development path? (Only directed at MW)

MW: Yes, it will be in sync with all changes in the main MySQL code. MariaDB is what I classify as a branch, not a fork. The difference is that with a branch you keep yourself updated with all changes from the original code while with a fork you forget where you came from and don’t take any updates from it.

Q: Have you considered the options for creating a foundation for the the development of MariaDB. Any thoughts on benefits/risks? (Only directed at MW)

MW: Monty Program Ab is, in effect, a foundation. See the hacking business model. In other words, Monty Program Ab is a company that is owned and steered by its employees and all money we generate is used to pay salaries and the occasional bonus for good work. I think this setup as a foundation works because it is easier to generate money from customers to fund the development work. We can also afford to hire the best people to work on the code and don’t have to rely only on people that are prepared to work for free or almost no pay.

Are closed-source MySQL storage engines compatible with MariaDB?

Following the launch of the Open Database Alliance some people have assumed that it is only a matter of time before MariaDB becomes the de facto replacement for MySQL.

That assumes that Oracle will allow the development of MySQL to stagnate, either deliberately or through neglect – something that we have expressed our doubts about, but even if that were the case it appears that the GPL (or more to the point MySQL’s dual licensing strategy) may restrict the potential for MariaDB.

Curt Monash recently raised the question of whether closed-source storage engines can be used with MySQL (and, by extension, MariaDB) without a commercial relationship between the vendor and MySQL/Sun/Oracle.

The issue is particularly relevant because if the answer is “no” it would limit the ability of MySQL storage engine providers (such as Kickfire, Infobright, ScaleDB, Tokutek, Calpont) to switch their allegiance to MariaDB.

Mike Hogan, CEO of ScaleDB, has suggested (in the comments to a previous Curt post) that it is hypothetically possible to link a proprietary storage engine to a GPL database without the storage engine having to also be released under the GPL by using a database-independent “OSS glue layer that makes calls to storage engines”. He referenced the arrangement that enable IBM’s DB2 to act as an engine for MySQL on the the System i as a precedent.

Given that ScaleDB offers its proprietary storage engine for both MySQL Enterprise and MySQL Community without a commercial arrangement with Sun, the company will be hoping that its analysis is correct. However their remains a suspicion that the arrangement with IBM was enabled/complemented by a commercial arrangement.

Certainly, as this FAQ explains, the DB2 as a storage engine for MySQL is not necessarily the same as other MySQL storage engines, stating that “The source code for the IBMDB2I Storage Engine is available under a IBM ‘GPL compatible’ license. However, this storage engine acts as an ‘adapter’ that enables MySQL to talk to the DB2 for i DB2. It is not the source code for DB2 itself.”

Either way, the founders of the Open Database Alliance are not so sure that closed-source storage engines can be used with MariaDB. I asked Monty Widenius and Peter Zaitsev, CEO of Percona via email whether there was a chance that closed source MySQL storage engines could become part of the Open Database Alliance. Their responses:

Peter Zaitsev

    “I think there is significant uncertainty about this one. It is unclear if MariaDB will be able to exist in close source version (via licensing fees to Sun/MySQL) or not. It is also not quite clear how GPL will work in this case – In theory with an open interface and plugin infrastructure it may be possible to distribute commercial storage engines (separately from MariaDB) and let users use them with GPL servers same as commercial drivers are used with a Linux Kernel.”

Monty Widenius

    “This can only be done by buying MySQL licenses from Sun for each copy of MariaDB that is distributed.”

Which sounds pretty conclusive. With all respect to the expertise of all those mentioned above, it would appear that this issue is not going to be resolved without getting the lawyers involved. I’d be interested to know what the likes of Mark Radcliffe, Lawrence Rosen, and Eben Moglen make of it.