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04.27.09

Does Oracle Still Acquire to Injure MySQL?

Posted in Database, Fork, GNU/Linux, GPL, Oracle, SUN at 3:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: If Oracle tried this before, why would anything change?

IN ORDER to keep our stories sufficiently unique, we did not bother writing much about Oracle and Sun. Other publications did this to the point of fatiguing readers.

Having watched this deal closely for a week (and discussed it endlessly in IRC), one issue worth bringing up is Oracle’s path of destruction against MySQL. They bought companies/projects that MySQL depended on. Observers must not forget this. They essentially bought some trouble and disruption for a competitor, proving that ‘free’ (unregulated) markets hardly work. It’s a fantasy that permits (if not invites) corporate abuse and/or harassment.

So what can be concluded with respect to Oracle’s plans for MySQL? They really deserve the benefit of the doubt, but people who are closest to the project (like Monty) should know better than all of us. Unfortunately, they are pessimistic.

No matter if MySQL forked, neglected by Oracle or who knows what, the project is likely to suffer from what Oracle did. Who benefits? Oracle of course, despite being the owner of MySQL.

The matter of fact is that MySQL gets disrupted, but Sun took the first hit at it by losing key staff. As John Dvorak put it:

The elephant in the room is MySQL. Exactly why Sun ever wanted to “own” an open source database manager is beyond me, and apparently beyond the open source community that only tolerated the situation because it had to.

From a perspective in Information Week:

If the MySQL team decides to scatter because Oracle doesn’t look like the kind of place where they want to work, I don’t blame them. And I’ll blame Oracle for wrecking a perfectly good product.

From the community manager of OpenSUSE:

So what’s going to happen to all this R&D? “So far, Oracle has been fairly quiet about their intentions regarding Sun’s open-source projects,” OpenSUSE Community Manager and former Linux Foundation evangelist Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier of Novell wrote eWEEK via e-mail.

And finally, says the SFLC quite dramatically, “fork well: it could be the last, best hope for community.”

I have faced with much trepidation the news of Oracle’s looming purchase of Sun. Oracle has never shown any interest in community development, particularly in the database area. They are the largest proprietary database vendor on the planet, and they probably have very simple plans for MySQL: kill it.

That’s why I read with relief this post by Monty (co-founder of the MySQL project) this week, wherein Monty plans (and encourages others, too) to put their full force behind a MySQL “fork” that will be centered outside of Oracle.

Monty is undoubtedly correct when he says “I don’t think that anyone can own an open source project; the projects are defined by the de-facto project leaders and the developers that are working on the project.” and that “[w]ith Oracle now owning MySQL, I think that the need for an independent true Open Source entity for MySQL is even bigger than ever before.”

Could the company’s core people rebuild MySQL AB under a different banner outside Oracle? The MySQL trademark was sold to Sun and now it’s Oracle’s, but brand recognition can be re-obtained. Most of the code is GPLv2-licensed, but unfortunately not all of it because of extensions. This just comes to show why that business model which a few people call “open core” (or whatever) is utterly pointless and dangerous.

Oracle is not foolish though. If former employees of MySQL (some of whom have considerable capital because of the sale to Sun) regroup as an independent company and steal the engineers from Oracle, then Oracle loses. So Oracle won’t allow this to happen. But how hard will Oracle try to improve MySQL? And why does it constantly avoid bringing up the subject (until very recently)?

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12 Comments

  1. vincent said,

    April 27, 2009 at 4:02 am

    Gravatar

    Why does Monty want to create a fork ?

    He can work at Ingres Corporation whose software is under GPL v2 ?

  2. NotZed said,

    April 27, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Gravatar

    This is really disingenuous of Monty and the other MySQL-AB lads. They sold the company for a billion$ didn’t they? A billion! And now they want to take it all back for nothing?

    “[w]ith Oracle now owning MySQL, I think that the need for an independent true Open Source entity for MySQL is even bigger than ever before.”

    Well why did they sell it then? Did they sell it fraudulently?

    And who the hell does Dvorak think `owned’ it before? It was a commercial entity, oddly enough. One that if I recall correctly, forced any contributions to their own ownership, so that they could re-sell it as they liked. And then they sold the whole lot for a huge pile of dough, what a bunch of ‘open source’ legends they turned out to be.

    What a lot of FUD. Particularly that nonsense on the SFLC blog which is almost entirely unsubstantiated FUD and bullshit.

    twitter Reply:

    Sorry, but there’s no fraud here. It’s GPL, so everyone owns it. “Forks” are the whole point of free software. When you pay billions of dollars for free software and don’t act right, you should not be surprised when the community project is better than your version. Oracle has not misbehaved yet but it’s only been a few days. Oracle is really in a no loss situation with MySQL. Like everyone else, they will be free to use the forked version if they decide they want to use kill and then use their free competitor. There’s good grounds to fear Oracle. You have to have a very poor understanding of software freedom to accuse MySQL and SFLC of FUD. Like big company reps say, “you read the license.”

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Oracle has not misbehaved yet but it’s only been a few days.

    I’m not sure I agree. Make sure you learn what they did in the past. I never forgot about it.

    Roy Bixler Reply:

    It seems to me that you are looking at this from the perspective of a proprietary software vendor. Sun bought the MySQL brand, but much of the code is still licenced under the GPL and it is still true that all the usual rights come with the GPL. Why did Sun pay so much money for it? I suppose that they considered the MySQL brand and all of the support contracts that come with it to be valuable. The worst that Sun or their successor could do is to make future MySQL versions proprietary. They cannot undo the GPL on current MySQL versions, so it’s perfectly legitimate for someone to make a fork. If Sun did not know that when they bought MySQL, then that would amount to such a lack of due diligence that it would frankly be incredible. In short, I don’t see how you arrived at your allegations of fraud.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    April 27, 2009 at 5:44 am

    Gravatar

    But I think the big question is, can we trust Oracle?

  4. Linux said,

    April 27, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Gravatar

    I think Oracle silence is dangerously scarrry..

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I just mostly rely on the people to whom MySQL is “their baby” (David and Monty) and they both left.

  5. aeshna23 said,

    April 27, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Gravatar

    So what can be concluded with respect to Oracle’s plans for MySQL? They really deserve the benefit of the doubt,

    While I usually wait for evidence of bad intent, I’m not so sure I agree that Oracle deserves the benefit of the doubt here. Oracle has a strong incentive to marginalize MySQL. Maybe, if Oracle continues to improve MySQL for the next three years, we might give them of the doubt then. Even then we’d still need to be vigilant.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Agreed. But being generous removes the allegation of prejudice against Oracle.

    Based on this new article’s headline, it seemed like a troll article, but it makes valid points.

    David Gerard Reply:

    See, articles like that are why people read the Register in the first place.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, it depends on the author.

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