I recently blogged about how many
unsuccessful great technologies with no chance of being monetized are donated to the Open Source movement to get rid of them and get the Open Source community to support them as great acts of charity and support for the community. Interestingly, the opposite happened this week: Sun acquired MySQL.
Surely Sun did not spend $1,000,000,000.00 just to defend the technology from evil capitalism and ensure it stays open and free. They will charge for it. More appropriately, they will charge for services around MySQL: integration, support, drivers, and anything else they can think of. MySQL AG was already charging $5,000 per server per year for enterprise services and support. While it is a good support package (30 minute response time, unlimited incidents), it does not include their High Availability component DRBD, nor does it include indemnification (which they seem to sell as an option). Of course, most MySQL deployments rely on the community and internal knowledge for support instead of paying MySQL.
I guess the code that has been released under an open source license have to stay that way. I assume Sun will steer development towards Solaris and develop a set of tools, drivers and other software that works with MySQL that they can charge for. Of course, Open Source advocated will claim that MySQL enjoys now the support and reputation of a large company, but sn't that against the spirit of Open Source - i.e. some people think the community is much better at supporting technology than large companies? I am not sure what are the long-term implications for the open source movement to have one of its top technologies now owned by a large company with clear intention to profit from it. What do you think?
I knew this would be a controversial post, so I would like to clarify a few things.
First, I am not against open source or against community-owned or community-driven sofwtare projects. I have worked on open-source projects in my career: I helped launch the first development tools for embedded Linux PDAs (CodeWarrior for Zaurus/OpenPDA). Open source is a great model for a number of projects, especially where there is no economic model. Great programming talent makes amazing contibutions to open source.
One of my points is about the way some large software companies approach open source - they claim to support a community when in reality they are giving away project they have no use for, or even worse - passing the burden of supporting a product to the community.
My main point is the new market dynamics: MySQL is not the first company to be acquired by a software giant: Yahoo recently acquired ZImbra, Citrix acquired Xensource. As this article from Infoworld suggests "The result, of course, means less of an "open" open source market, while the prospect of a big payday with none of the risks of an IPO could well push more open source entrepreneurs into the hands of 'the enemy.' "
This article from eWeek quotes Josh Farina from Rechnology Business Research " In February 2006, Oracle acquired Finnish developer InnoDB, who provided an enterprise-grade database engine option for MySQL. Oracle's ownership of InnoDB took much of the wind out of the advance of MySQL, and the firm has not developed an alternative." The same article then quotes Kusnetzky Research "The key question is, Will MySQL continue to be an independent, cross-platform product, or will it become a Sun-only tool? If the latter is true, it will just about destroy the market's interest in the software and help other open-source database products such as PostgreSQL."
Another eWeek article reads "To Bruce Momjian, lead integrator for the PostgreSQL project, the key difference between PostgreSQL and MySQL has been that the PostgreSQL project was truly community-oriented; there was no vendor driving it as a vehicle to distribute software." . Bingo.
Michael wrote a comment to my post to the effect that open source means that the code is downloadable, editable and compilable by everyone. I respectfully disagree - first, because there is not much value in many people compiling the same code, the value is in the contributions from talented programers worldwide. Second, the term open source has many different interpretations: free software, access to source code, GPL, etc. see my previous post on the topic.
Again, my main point is a reflection on the market dynamics of open source projects being owned by large for-profit companies, which are is bad or good, nor they make these open source projects better or worse. Some people will argue these projects will nejoy the backing and resources of a large company and some will be concerned about their influence to a community-driven project.
As always, posts on this blog represent the author's personal opinion which may not be the same of my employer.