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Come on Monty

What on earth is Monty (and Richard) thinking? How can you spin around 180 and expect to come of believable? How can suddenly the GPL be the wrong choice? How can suddenly OSS depend on proprietary sales? Anyways, even without this change of minds, I do not believe in their arguments. I also do not hold stock in any of the involved companies (well I do not hold any direct stock in any company only indirectly by way of a few retirement funds I hold), so why do I keep posting on this? The reason is that I think this kind of stuff hurts OSS. It creates the kind of FUD we were worried about Microsoft spreading about OSS. Now that they are shutting up more and more, some seem to feel a void that they need to fill with some FUD of their own. To me Monty is just abusing the lack of understanding but the growing interest from the EU commission about open source to get his baby back on the cheap, or at least as much control as he can, since after all his baby can never be taken away .. its GPL stupid! But just as well anyone can have his baby on the same terms and of course only one company can claim to own the original copyright.

Now he is sending his employees out making bogus claims like that Eben supposedly has stated that "any fork using GPL code has the exact same business opportunities Oracle has is". Well since I do not follow this case full time I can obviously not claim to have read everything that Eben has said and I must admit I have any skimmed his letter for about 30min but I have read nothing of the sort in that letter. All that was said is that MySQL cannot be killed by Oracle and that there are viable business models in the MySQL space. And the more Oracle tries to kill MySQL, the more viable business models arise for competitors.

I do take issue with some of Eben's statements. For one I do agree that the vast majority of GPL projects are not dual licensed, a significant number of the more well known ones (JBoss, MySQL, SugarCRM to just one a few from the top of my head) do indeed follow this model. So I think it hurts his argument to claim to try to relegate MySQL AB's business models to be "atypical". It has certainly been a very effective business models for some of the bigger OSS companies to make it there.

I also take a bit of an issue with his arguments in regards to storage engines. While there might significant truth in there and especially the business model concerns in regards to Falcon are beyond what I know about the internals of MySQL AB's business (why does Eben know?), but overall there are technical reasons that do make storage engines advantageous. Anyways here is the section from his letter I am referring to from (copied from a Groklaw article):

18. "Storage engines," for example, are much discussed in the SO, under the impression that it is a virtue of MySQL that it is designed around replaceable storage engines, which the SO asserts can only be created and implemented by venture-funded firms needing proprietary distribution opportunities in order to recoup development costs. This, I think, is a misunderstanding of the technical history. MySQL's design was an outcome of the need for dual-license revenue, not a pre-condition to it. PostgreSQL, for example, does not have or need multiple storage engines: it contains a single highly-configurable storage manager which is not independent of the database engine. MySQL's use of multiple storage engines resulted from MySQL's need to have something to sell dual-license customers different and better than that provided to users under GPL. The resulting uncertainty that could arise over whether a table had been created using a transaction-safe storage engine or by the original freely-available MyISAM storage engine contributed to the problem with occasional corruption of MySQL databases that was long a primary drawback to the enterprise use of MySQL. MySQL AB contemplated and designed a single multi-purpose high-performance storage engine, named Falcon, that would have substantially replaced all existing MySQL storage engines, but the business-model consequences of that step were sufficiently negative for MySQL AB, because of its need to produce dual-license revenue, that the project was never completed.

I do agree that the entire storage engine stuff did become part of their business model. And yes in some ways it was also a disadvantage in that suddenly in order to get optimal performance/features out of a MySQL install one would have to tune multiple storage engines instead of just one. Or that due to setup mistakes an app would not work as expected. But its also an advantage, in that in PostgreSQL for example you do not get a choice if you want the overhead of transactions (heck I just dropped the import of some CSV's from 3 hours to 10 minutes by switching to MyISAM) or because you want optimistic locking. At the very least I see a lot more radical experimentation going on in the MySQL ecosystem than I see in any other existing OSS RDBMS project.

Anyways, the point remains however: If you want to keep control over the copyright of your own code, do not go sell it to VC's even if your CEO promises that you will not sell yourself to another company. But I am sure Monty, you have made a bit of money with this mistake, so for you the lesson learned at least came wrapped in dollar bills.

Comments



Re: Come on Monty

I think Monty has a point regarding the difference between who has the copyright of the code and who can do forks. MySQL is GPL. You can fork it, but you cannot make the changes proprietary nor make derivative tools proprietary.

INNODB had proprietary tools to make live backups of INNODB databases. They charged a lot of money for them.

You could create derivative tools from INNODB tables but since INNODB is GPL, you need to make the changes public. How do you charge money for selling those tools if you are making them free at the same time? You can try, but you will hardly sell much.

Falcon was going to provide similar tools. But now that Oracle purchased Sun, and so MySQL AB, when will Falcon be released? How many years more do we need to benefit from those tools?

Meanwhile Oracle will convert MySQL paying customers to use Oracle and the MySQL paying customers market will dry. It is a matter of time until Oracle kills MySQL for having dried its business.

Sure, everybody can fork MySQL, but that costs money as the developers need to be paid to work in the project full time. If you think that is cheap, go and try doing it yourself.

The bottom line, GPL is only good while you hold the copyright. Otherwise, it will be much more difficult to make serious money from it.

That said, it is too late for Monty to complain and desperately try to avoid Oracle-Sun merger. He should have thought of that when he sold to Sun. That was the mistake that mistake of his life.

Re: Come on Monty

As a side comment, MySQL 6 references have been wiped from MySQL site but the page URLs still exist so Google leads users to see that MySQL development is being killed.

http://dev.mysql.com/downloads/mysql/6.0.html

http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/6.0/en/index.html

This is just the beginning of the end of MySQL future development.

The truth behind MySQL 6.0

is not so nefarious ...

http://www.sdtimes.com/blog/post/2009/10/08/Has-MySQL-60-Been-Canceled.aspx

Re: Come on Monty

In fact, MySQL is not a software product, it is a franchise. The only valuable asset is a "MySQL" trademark, under which several radically different software products developed by different companies were offered. If you are unable to create one good enough "storage engine", you give an illusion of choice by allowing several companies provide huge pile of "slightly incompatible" ones having "almost similar" SQL API on top.

MySQL [+ PHP] guys spent a lot of time force-feeding MySQL trademark to ignorant developers. Now, finally, Monty & co suddenly got a revelation that these developers *are* ignorant, so it'll be difficult to make them switch to some kind of fork which is not having "MySQL" name *and* that Oracle is a lot better at force-feeding propaganda.

Well, it was Monty's strategy, and now he suffers the consequences. Of course, Monty walks away with several millions in hard cash, while [PHP +] MySQL cheerleaders who bet on "MySQL" franchise only walk away with a cute dolphin T-shirt.

Time to throw away that T-shirt and (finally) learn something new.

Re: Come on Monty

Actually I agree with Eben, that names for OSS products can be changed quite successfully, look at Firefox etc. Now obviously what Monty is doing here is at the very least getting a lot of press for his fork. So either way he wins a lot of "trademark" off balancing power for his fork.

Re: Come on Monty

Firefox's name was changed long before it gained momentum.

Also most PHP+MySQL developers don't read any press except for "PHP+MySQL for dummies in 21 easy steps". They'll continue reading this stuff, only it will be published by Oracle this time. No one knows and uses any stinking PostgreSQL, Drizzle, Firebird or MariaDB, MySQL is the Ultimate Answer!

Re: Come on Monty

Small companies with commercial MySQL licenses to embed MySQL in things are at risk. Oracle could cut them off completely or price them out. A couple of stipulations from the EC regarding maintaining reasonable license prices, the documentation and the current licensing model would help.

Also, the idea that Monty is out to regain control of the code for business purposes through manipulation of the EC regulators, as I have seen mentioned a few places, is ridiculous. That would be a smart and devious business move and anybody who knows Monty knows that he is the exact opposite of a smart and devious business person.

It took me a little while to get past the, "But Monty, you created this mess and made millions from it..." view as well. In the end the only question that matters for the EC regulators is whether Oracle gaining control of MySQL will be anti-competitive and I think it is hard to argue that there are no opportunities for Oracle to be anti-competitive here.

Re: Come on Monty

Right, the issue however is that when you get in bed with a Florian who just takes out the machine gun and sprays anyone who doesn't say exactly as he does, then you should not be surprised. After all Florian is a professional lobby worker. So the dubious side of Monty is Florian .. but it never the less exists. They should have stuck with the honest story in that they are worried that the MySQL ecosystem will see significantly less investments without a parallel proprietary ecosystem that they assert Oracle will drop. That argument would have required to put down some numbers of what has happened today, what realistic projections are there etc. But instead they spew BS in every possible direction.

Now obviously there will be companies that drop out now and I faintly remember several companies having announced then never really shipped or follow up on their storage engine promises. Either because they got bought up (SolidDB) or because frankly MySQL's ecosystem was always one rocky boat. Oddly enough it hasn't scared people off.

Now with the concessions Oracle has put on the table the situation should be more stable than it ever was:

2. Non-assertion. As copyright holder, Oracle will change Sun's current policy and shall not assert or threaten to assert against anyone that a third party vendor's implementations of storage engines must be released under the GPL because they have implemented the application programming interfaces available as part of MySQL's Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture.

A commercial license will not be required by Oracle from third party storage engine vendors in order to implement the application programming interfaces available as part of MySQL's Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture.

The fact of the matter is that saying that dual licensing got MySQL AB to the top is BS. It just made it big in terms of mind share. The second it gets sold for 1 billion you know sure well that its not about just continuing like MySQL AB with the dual licensing scheme. Change was going to come in some way anyways and Sun gave us no reassurances that any sane person would bet their life on either.

So the lesson to learn is that if you care about the full technical freedom of your baby then do not shackle it with the GPL (and do not forget to release your docs under the creative commons license). If all you want to make sure is that the source doesn't get taken away, the GPL will suffice.

Oh and yes the biggest testament to MySQL's strength is that people still care after the entire version 5 debacle. Also teaches us that while (or maybe even because) Monty might be pure at heart, he isn't able to stop around him to take MySQL in the wrong direction.

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