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. If Oracle were allowed to acquire MySQL, we would be looking at less competition among databases, which will mean higher license and support prices. In the end it's always the consumers and the small businesses that have to pay the bills, in this case to
Thanks for all the help in the first Save mysql effort. The blog got hit by more than 60,000 users and we where able to generate an approximate number of 10,000 emails to the EC. New answers are still coming in. Of the answers 0.7 % says "I trust Oracle". The rest 99.3 % says that they don't trust that Oracle would be good owner of MySQL.
We have got an indication that this is making a difference within EC, but we don't want to take any chances. We need to counter BOTH the about 400 Oracle customers that Oracle has persuaded to contact the EC AND the political and public pressure Oracle is putting on EC.
This is why we are now launching a world wide campaign in several languages to get a very large number of names that we will give to those taking the decision. This will include the European Commission (EC) and the representatives of the 27 EU Member States who will meet in Brussels in early January to discuss the case. It will also include regulators in other jurisdictions (where it would, unlike in Europe, not be acceptable to announce in public who they are).
We are searching for volunteers to help us with this effort. If you are interested to help, join the #helpmysql IRC channel on Freenode. Help us keep the infrastructure of the Internet free!
In the rest of the blog I will try to answer all the questions and concerns that were raised in the first Help-MySQL campaign. This is not required reading, but may be of some interest for those the want to know a little more about my thinking of the current situation.
I will do this in the form of a self-interview, something a lot of famous bloggers have done in the past.
Q: Why don't you trust that Oracle would be a good owner of MySQL?
Oracle is the company that has the biggest market share in revenues for databases in all customer markets/segments. MySQL is the database with the highest number of installed units in all markets (except in the high enterprise market where it has only a medium size unit share). If Oracle were allowed to buy MySQL then Oracle would almost be in a monopoly position in many market segments.
MySQL is causing Oracle sales losses around 1 billion usd/year (in lost sales to MySQL and because of having to do heavy discounting when competing with MySQL). Why would Oracle have an interest to invest in an open source MySQL long term?
Oracle has studied MySQL a long time and even offered to buy it twice before, but I have not yet seen the logic or explanation from Oracle that would explain how they can continue to develop and support MySQL without cannibalizing the most profitable part of their business.
There is no other logical reason why Oracle would buy MySQL than to control it, reduce the competition with the present Oracle offering and slowly change it to a more closed source product and start charging for it and at the same time eliminate the competition between MySQL and Oracle.
If we examine what has happened lately, we don't get any reassurance that Oracle would be a good owner:
- Instead of working with the EC to quickly resolve things, Oracle has delayed the process in every imaginable way and instead resorted to public pressure to try to convince the EC to quickly approve the deal.
- Oracle did not provide any remedies to the EC and the public promises they have published are just empty promises.
- As part of the new layoffs in Sun, a lot of open source people, including people from the MySQL group have been fired. It seems that Oracle has been part of choosing the people that will be laid off.
- Oracle as a company is not known for releasing its own software as open source. The open source software it has acquired, like InnoDB, has after being acquired, been developed secretly and slowly which is against how things are done in the open source environment. Larry Ellison's own statement about open source summarizes it nicely "We don't have to fight open source, we have to exploit open source".
- The main work Oracle has contributed to open source is extending the Linux kernel, but they have done that mainly to ensure that their own products works better on Linux.
Q: Can Oracle change the license of MySQL ?
Oracle can't change the license for old versions of MySQL. They can however change the license for all new code and put a majority of all new development on the new closed source version. Over time the MySQL GPL code from Oracle will be as usable as Betamax video cassettes. It is just not enough to give promises for the next 5 years as MySQL will be needed in the market for years to come.
Q: MySQL is free (GPL) software, how could anyone be able to kill it?
With killed, I mean a project that is not actively developed and for which you don't get bug fixes or support. By not spending money on development of the open source version of MySQL and/or position it in the market as 'not reliable' or 'for testing only' Oracle could make the open source very unattractive for most users. The open source version of MySQL would not be an attractive alternative for long and users will start searching for other alternatives. The easiest alternative, because of no migration costs, will be paying for a closed source Enterprise version of MySQL from Oracle.
GPL only guarantees that the (old) code will always be free. It doesn't guarantee the economics around the project or that anyone can or will develop it further.
Q: But why can't one just a fork (make a copy of it and start developing it)?
MySQL is an infrastructure project, a building block which others either enhance (like storage engines) or which they embedded in other products (think of a GPL library).
You can fork a GPL infrastructure project, but not the economic ecosystem around it. You can read more about it in my earlier blog posting.
The short summary is:
- The fork can't be used with other products that are using MySQL as a building block for their closed source applications.
- The fork has to work in an environment where no one has to pay for it. (How can there be enough money to earn for serious development ?)
- In addition to the above, it's also very hard to do a full fork of a project like MySQL. You need, among other things:
- Leaders that have passion for the project (Almost all big successful open source projects have passionate leaders that help coordinate and provide a vision).
- People who know the code and can maintain and extend it.
- Money: For hardware, company infrastructure, marketing to get known (especially if you fork a known trademark, like MySQL) etc.
I don't know if there ever has been a successful fork of a big infrastructure program like MySQL. It is wishful thinking to claim that released under the GPL license is enough remedy for Oracle and "if Oracle is doing something bad" a fork will 'appear' and take care of things.
- I don't think that competition cases should be judged based on wishful thinking.
If MySQL were be so easy to fork, Sun would also not have paid 1 billion for MySQL.
Q: You are doing your own fork of MySQL called MariaDB. How can you do that if it's so hard to fork MySQL?
When we started with MariaDB, MySQL was owned by Sun, which has a lot of reasons to keep MySQL alive and well. We had seen no changes in the policies of SUN regarding licenses or costs. In this scenario it's possible to do a successful fork if you can provide added value to what Sun is doing (like working more closely with the community).
However with an owner that has nothing to gain by developing MySQL, under an open source license, things are totally different.
The reason we are continuing with MariaDB is that all persons in Monty Program Ab are committed to work on the product, for which many of us have worked for close to 10 years.
We don't expect to make a lot of money while doing this, but we hope to be able to ensure that MySQL can continue to live as an open source product for some extended time.
In the discussions now people are very easily saying that "there is no problem, the community will take care of it if Oracle tried to kill MySQL".
I can tell you it's not easy; I have the best possible team working on MariaDB, still it has taken us 9 months to do some small required changes and create an infrastructure to be able to do our first release (we released a beta last month and are now working on releasing a release candidate (RC)).
We are spending 100,000 Euros/months just to keep MySQL alive (as MariaDB) and there are no sure signs we will ever be able to get that money back. Fortunately we have enough funding so we can continue some years with doing this. This is however not sustainable forever.
Q: Why have a lot of companies put money into developing Linux? Doesn't Linux have the same problems with GPL as MySQL?
While Linux is indeed distributed under the GPL, as is MySQL, Linux has an exception that allows anyone to run any kind of applications (including closed source applications) on top of Linux without being affected by the Linux copyright or GPL:
"NOTE! This copyright does *not* cover user programs that use kernel services by normal system calls - this is merely considered normal use of the kernel, and does *not* fall under the heading of "derived work"
Compare this to Sun's statement about commercial licenses:
"For OEMs, ISVs, VARs and Other Distributors of Commercial Applications:
OEMs, ISVs, VARs and other distributors that combine and distribute commercially licensed software with MySQL software and do not wish to distribute the source code for the commercially licensed software under version 2 of the GNU General Public License (the "GPL") must enter into a commercial license agreement with Sun"
The main reasons companies are taking part developing Linux is that they want their hardware and software to work with Linux. They don't make money directly on Linux, they make money on the things around Linux, without being affected by the GPL.
As closed source vendors can't use a fork of MySQL, because with the fork they are affected by the GPL, they will not spend time or money to develop the MySQL fork.
Q: What does your company, Monty Program Ab do?
Monty Program Ab Ab is a development company. We are working on a branch of MySQL, called MariaDB. MariaDB is an enhanced (faster, more features and less bugs) drop-in replacement of MySQL that is only available under GPL.
Monty Program Ab is planned to be a small company with a close connection to its employees and we have no plans to grow to more than 50 people (as after 50, you often lose the family-friendly feeling in the company).
We do mainly development of new features and extensions to MariaDB and MySQL. We also provide level 3 support to companies delivering support on MariaDB.
We don't do and don't plan to do e.g. end user support or training. We don't plan (and we don't want) be a new MySQL AB.
Monty Program Ab is created around the 'Hacking Business Model' that in practice makes the company 'employee owned'. There is no money I can personally make from Monty Program Ab.
Q: Why are you working with the EC to try to block the deal?
I have two main objects in my business life:
- Save the product, that I worked on for 27 year, from getting killed as an open source project.
- Ensure that the core developers of MySQL, who I have worked with for many years, get a good 'home' where they can continue to develop MySQL.
Q: In your view, what are the possible solutions for the Oracle / Sun / MySQL deal?
The European Commission (EC) has recognized that MySQL and Oracle are competing products and issued a statement of objections (SO) against the merger between Oracle and Sun on 11'th of November 2009.
As long as the products are recognized to be competing, any solution that the EC would accept has to ensure that there is as much competition in the database field before the merger as after the merger.
For this, I only see two working solutions:
- Oracle should divest MySQL.
- Oracle should change the license of MySQL to a more permissive Open Source license that would ensure that if Oracle would try to kill MySQL, the community would be able to take over and rescue MySQL and develop it as a product that can be freely used by everyone.
Doing a license change is a controversial thing that the EC can't force Oracle to do. This is however something that Oracle can suggest to the EC as a remedy to not have to divest MySQL.
Personally I would prefer divestiture as this is a clean solution to the problem. However, I could personally live with the solution 2) as this would achieve my main personal objective: That MySQL can't be killed.
Q: Isn't it unreasonable to require Oracle to change the license of MySQL?
Yes, of course neither the EU nor any other jurisdiction could dictate anything like that. Divestiture is the normal solution when you need to clear competition concerns. But since Oracle is trying to get away with some compromise, and if a compromise is what we get, it should be one where MySQL has a chance to survive. Not a compromise that just means a different kind of death for MySQL.
Q: How do the proposed remedies benefit your company, Monty Program Ab?
We do not know but hope that many companies would be unhappy with the new competitive situation if Oracle is the owner and would seek out MariaDB instead. But a big portion of the revenue would not come to us (as we cannot sell licenses, we do not produce first line support...)
If MySQL were divested to a strong player in the market that would care about MySQL and would have the trust in the market, Monty Program Ab would get a hard competitor and would have a hard time to get business.
If MySQL were licensed under a permissive license, like BSD, then the users would benefit as they now can securely continue to use MySQL in all context. Monty Program Ab would also switch to only produce code under BSD for the MariaDB server, to ensure that also MariaDB can be used in all context.
Monty Program Ab would benefit very little from of this; We cannot take money from selling BSD; We can only hope that there is a market demand for our skilled engineers.
The companies that would benefit the most from BSD are the companies that enhance MySQL (storage engine vendors and companies providing extensions to MySQL) and companies that embed MySQL in their products, like Adobe or Cisco.
The reason we are hoping for regulators to get the deal blocked on the current basis is thus not to earn more money, but because it's more important for us that MySQL will continue to be free, available for all, and developed in a way that meets the needs of all major market segments.
Q: As you are suggesting a license change, is GPL then a bad Open Source license?
I think that GPL is a great open source license, in many cases the best license. The GPL license ensures freedom of the code and at the same time gives the copyright holder a very strong control on the code and it's ecosystem, especially it's closed source customers.
Thanks to this property of GPL, it's safe for many closed source vendors of embeddable software, to release their software as GPL. They get the benefit of the open source community, they help promote free software and can still make a good living of it. Those that need the software under another license than GPL are paying the bills.
I am constantly encouraging companies to release their software as GPL, including companies like MoSync, that I have myself invested
It's however the strong control that GPL gives the copyright holder for embeddable software that is a problem in this particular case of MySQL. It gives Oracle the possibility to slowly kill MySQL as not everyone can use it. Oracle can this way starve the ecosystem around MySQL so that nobody can live there decently.
The code is still free, but in practice not everyone would or could use it.
This is why GPL is not very often used for libraries (and other infrastructure software). For libraries one normally uses LGPL, that allows anyone to freely use the software in their application.
What MySQL AB did, that was unique at the time, was to use the 'inconvenience of GPL' in a library as a way to do dual licensing. By providing commercial licenses for MySQL, everyone could use MySQL (for commercial vendors for a small price).
In short, GPL is a fantastic license, but without dual licensing, not very good for a library that is to be used by everyone.
Q: What other things can go wrong if regulators approves the deal?
If the deal is approved based on the fact that 'MySQL can be forked', that will be a big blow to open source Software.
It means that open source software is not protected for anticompetitive measures and it will be ok for big companies to freely buy up their open source competitors and kill them.
Note that not even PostgreSQL is safe from this threat! For example, Oracle could buy some companies developing PostgreSQL and target the core developers. Without the core developers working actively on PostgreSQL, the PostgreSQL project will be weakened tremendously and it could even die as ar result.
Q: There have been some suggestions on the net that in the past you did approve of Oracle buying MySQL. Have you now changed your mind?
"Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't change my mind" :)
Jokes aside, when the Oracle proposition to buy MySQL first time come up, I said that I could stand behind the deal only if the MySQL license was changed to BSD as part of the deal. Even back then, I wanted to ensure that MySQL would continue to be free, available and developed to meet the needs of all major market segments, in spite of what Oracle would try to do to it.
Q: Are MySQL and Oracle really competing products ?
To be fair, they don't compete for all applications and it's in many cases prohibitively expensive, risky and time-consuming to migrate an old Oracle application to work on MySQL.
However for new applications MySQL and Oracle are competing in almost every customer segment. Oracle has for years tried to come into the Web market, but has not succeeded, mainly because MySQL has already been there.
When a MySQL sales person goes and visit customers, it's in most cases Oracle, and in many cases only Oracle, that MySQL is competing with.
Q: How about MySQL on Windows? Does MySQL compete with MS SQL Server?
Windows was not the key target platform for MySQL. Almost all developers at MySQL AB worked on Linux/Unix and did their development there. This was not because we didn't want MySQL to run well on Windows, but because we had not found developers that wanted to work on MySQL on Windows and also because most of our big customers were running Linux/Unix.
It's also clear that Sun would never have been interested in MySQL if MySQL primarily compete on Windows (as Oracle claim it does).
Q: Why can't everyone just switch to PostgreSQL?
PostgreSQL is a great database; I am friends with many of the PostgreSQL core developers.
The problems with PostgreSQL are:
- It's not compatible with MySQL (different feature sets and different support by various applications) and it's far from trivial (in many cases practically impossible) to convert MySQL applications to PostgreSQL and vice versa.
- It doesn't have a single strong company backing that MySQL has to deliver high class support globally.
- The PostgreSQL market is also, as far as I know, dominated by Enterprise DB that provides a closed source version of PostgreSQL, which is not good enough for companies standardizing on open source.
Q: Don't you care about what happens to Sun?
Yes, I grew up developing on Sun hardware and I feel deeply for Sun. However MySQL is my project that I have worked on for 27 years and must be my first priority.
We also have to recognize that it's Oracle that is holding Sun hostage just to get MySQL. Oracle could have got the deal closed very quickly if they had divested MySQL and just forked it.
Q: "What differentiates MySQL from other open source products Oracle would be acquiring with Sun, like Java or Open Office?"
Oracle doesn't have competing products for Java and Open Office, so there is no reason to assume that Oracle would not take good care of them and generate money from them.
Open Office is also an end user product under a permissive license, LGPL, which means it can easily be forked if Oracle would not take good care of it.
With MySQL this is unfortunately not the case.
Q: Didn't you sell MySQL to Sun? Do you want to have the cake and eat it too?
First a little background:
I started to work on a code that would later become MySQL in 1982. MySQL was released in 1995 under a dual licensing scheme that allowed David Axmark and me to very quickly work full time on developing MySQL.
I lost the rights to the MySQL copyright in 2001 when MySQL AB was created and we allowed investors to come in. We needed to bring in investors to be able to create a full-scale working company to satisfy big customers and to be able to hire more developers and take MySQL to the next stage. To ensure that MySQL would continue to be free, David and I stated in the shareholder agreement that MySQL AB would have to keep MySQL under an open source license. The problem with a shareholder agreement is that it is terminated when the company is sold. This is just how things works.
David and I however thought that this would not be a problem, as we would help ensure that MySQL would be bought by a good owner.
I continued to lead the MySQL project and have been one of the leaders and top contributors for the project since then.
When the sales process to Sun started, I was at the time not anymore in the MySQL Board (just a MySQL shareholder). I was just informed about the deal, after it was agreed to. I did get money for my shares, that is true, but it did not change in any way my dedication or involvement in the MySQL project.
Q: Was SUN a good owner?
Even though I had no say in the deal, I was happy because I thought that Sun, who has been one of the big advocates of open source, would be a good home for MySQL. MySQL was also the missing piece in Sun's software stack and as Sun didn't own any database competing with MySQL, it would be in Sun's interest to continue developing MySQL as an open source database.
This was proven right a couple of months later when the old MySQL management, who was still in charge of MySQL development, announced that they would now, (when they were not anymore bound by the shareholder agreement), add closed source addons to MySQL. Sun's upper management stepped in and forced MySQL's management to retract the statement.
After the Sun deal, I continued to work on MySQL and the Maria storage engine in Sun (in the CTO lab) and, together with Sun upper management, to help Sun be a driving force in open source. I also tried to get Sun to improve the MySQL development organization and change the MySQL development model to be more community friendly.
Q: You left SUN. Did you put pressure on SUN to be able to set up your own company?
The reason I left Sun was that after almost one year of trying, the MySQL development organization was still lacking vision, strategy and engineering excellence and it did not engage with the community.
Some of the developers did in addition not fit in a big publicly listed company and started to talk about leaving SUN.
To ensure we would not start to lose critical MySQL resources from the MySQL ecosystem and to ensure that MySQL would live on, I departed from Sun on good terms, with an understanding of what I needed to do and without any competition clauses.
I created Monty Program Ab and continued to work on a branch of MySQL, now under the name of MariaDB, together with the community and the core MySQL developers that left Sun. We are now 19 persons in Monty Program Ab and all totally dedicated to keep MySQL alive.
Q: How did things change when Oracle came into the picture?
Now when Oracle is trying to buy Sun, I am continuing to what I have always done and never stopped doing; Do what I can to ensure that MySQL is kept alive as an open source product, free and available for all. With Oracle as a buyer this is not a guaranteed outcome, which is why I am working to get the EC to ensure that Oracle can't kill MySQL even if they tried.
As seen from my this and previous answers, the main benefit I can personally get by working with regulators to get the deal blocked, is that MySQL is not killed. This is also the only logical answer, as I already have enough money and could just sit down and relax instead of spending 18 hours a day to try to keep my project alive.
The cake at stake is a free infrastructure for the Internet, which is a cake that millions of MySQL users and billions of Internet users are enjoying today.
Q: Sun paid a billion dollar for MySQL. What did Sun buy?
- The MySQL trademark
- The copyright to the MySQL server and other components (and thus control of the MySQL economical ecosystem).
- Access to the MySQL community of 15 millions users and probably more than 50 millions installations.
- MySQL AB's customers contracts.
- The core developers work contracts
- All other assets in MySQL AB
Q: Who would like to buy MySQL?
It has been speculated that I would be interested in buying MySQL. This is completely untrue. First I don't have that kind of money (all of the original founders of MySQL got collectively less than 12 % of the Sun deal). Second I am not interested in MySQL AB.
I much more prefer to work in a small family-oriented company, where things are handled in a fair, transparent and open source way.
However, there are a lot of potential buyers on the market: (Note that this is just speculation, I have no information about the intentions of any of the companies mentioned below)
- IBM (DB2 and MySQL are working in mostly different markets and our sales persons very seldom compete with DB2).
- Any of the major Linux distribution vendors.
- Fujitsu (as Fujitsu has close connections with Sun, it has it's own storage engines and is also doing development of databases).
- Some investment group who would like to take MySQL public (like it was originally planned).
Just that all users of MySQL still have time to influence their own future by going to helpmysql.org and sign the petition to help keep MySQL free and available for all.
We are searching for volunteers to help us with this effort. If you are interested to help, join the #helpmysql IRC channel on Freenode.
Help us keep the infrastructure of the Internet free!