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Databases Programming Software IT

Open Source Licensing - Cuts Both Ways? 367

Posted by Hemos
from the up-for-debate dept.
shortscruffydave writes "The Register is running a piece Open source databases - a sword that cuts both ways? which mentions one of the potential pitfalls of open source databases: "Open source is just another licensing model: the more accepted it becomes, the more it is adopted at a strategic level, the more it plays back into the hands of the traditional behemoths that dominate the industry". " I couldn't disagree more with the author of this piece, since I think the success of Postgres & MySQL are already contra-proof positive, but the piece is still an interesting read.
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Open Source Licensing - Cuts Both Ways?

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  • by Evro (18923) * <evandhoffman@ g m a i l.com> on Monday April 04, 2005 @09:10AM (#12133370) Homepage Journal
    "Dude, you're giving IBM free shit... they're not going to return the favor."

    Except they have? Article looks like flamebait/trolling to me, or else just ignorance.
  • by rescendent (870007) on Monday April 04, 2005 @09:17AM (#12133446) Homepage
    If your using a closed source database and the company that owns it goes down the pan you're just stuffed.

    If its open, at least you have a chance to adapt and tinker to fix it.

    Though in either case you'd probablly just go with a different provider.
  • by InfiniteWisdom (530090) on Monday April 04, 2005 @09:18AM (#12133455) Homepage
    Because he want's to say that it's not proof would simply mean that the original author's proposition was unproven. What the submitter was trying to say, though, is that the success of MySQL and Postgres prove the opposite.
  • Re:OpenSourcing a DB (Score:5, Informative)

    by kevin_conaway (585204) on Monday April 04, 2005 @09:21AM (#12133485) Homepage
    You don't need open source for this. Merely publishing an API and an SDK would accomplish that.
  • by ctr2sprt (574731) on Monday April 04, 2005 @09:22AM (#12133501)
    "Not proof" means the absence of proof. "Contra-proof positive" means there is proof, but it's directly contrary to what the original author claims.

    Say I claim that the sky is red and offer evidence to that effect. If my evidence is inadequate, then it's not proof. If my evidence proves that the sky is definitely not red, then it's contra-proof: it proves the opposite of what I am claiming.

    It would be less awkward to say "proof negative," but the contra- prefix is common in philosophical circles where this sort of fine distinction is usually relevant.

  • by dzfoo (772245) on Monday April 04, 2005 @09:34AM (#12133608)
    Hum... This not really accurate. With the GPL you are only required to release the source of those modifications that were strictly based on the GPL'd source *AND* -- and this is key -- you distribute the modified code.

    If you modified the GPL'd software for your own corporate needs, not for re-distribution, as seems to be the case with the target audience of the article, then you do *NOT* have to distribute any modified source.

    -dZ.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday April 04, 2005 @09:40AM (#12133664) Homepage
    Sorry but until the author of the article actually does something with FOSS in the corperate world and knows how it really works he's simply another idiot spewing worthless drivel on the street corner at cars passing by.

    we hafe a few ATL tape library units here at the datacenter. upgrading PAST windows NT4 means we have to pull those units and throw them away. ATL refuses to release drivers for them for 2K or 2K3 and suggest "buy our new product".

    great, over $180,000.00US investment in WORKING SDLT robotic tape libraries because the company wants to drive revinue by forcing new hardware purchases. yet Linux and a couple of other FOSS packages saved that and they are now working along happily in our datacenter.

    So all that development we did to support the tape library robitic units was a waste? Programmer time is dirt fricking cheap right now compared to enterprise level hardware costs. we built the platform on FOSS parts, those were free to us, so why do we needto be greedy assholes and not give out what we coded that was BUILT UPON the work already done by others?

    I reccomend that everyone ignore the article as a know nothing screaming about things he read in a trade magazine.... because it is missing huge pieces of the puzzle that many many of us use every single day to save money and INCREASE revinue of the company.
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday April 04, 2005 @09:56AM (#12133810) Journal
    MySQL, including the client libraries are GPL'd. This means that any code that links against them (i.e. anything that interacts with the DB directly) must also be GPL'd. If you do not distribute your code in binary form, this is probably acceptable to you. If you are creating something for a single customer, then this is probably acceptable for you. If you are creating something for multiple customers, and do not wish to give them distribution rights, or for some other reason the GPL is not acceptable to you, then you will need a commercial license.

    You should also look at PostgreSQL (a better bet if you need anything other than high throughput data reads), which is BSD licensed, allowing you to do more or less anything other than claim you wrote it or sue the creators if it breaks.

  • Re:I call bull (Score:3, Informative)

    by Directrix1 (157787) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:32AM (#12134118)
    Those are big words coming from someone who develops fingerpainting software..... yes they are .... such big words. Real world applications, even if you provide screen by screen instructions on how to do everything, ALWAYS need support in one form or another. If it was easy to do, a business wouldn't make money doing it. Additionally, businesses want tools that get the job done the way they want it. If a business has a programmer on payroll, then they can get things done using open source, contributing back to the main project where it doesn't necessarily give competitors and advantage, and harvesting the knowledge and work of other cooperating businesses. It works out quite nicely actually. So the question comes down to control. Does a business want absolute control over the direction their software takes, use open source. Does a business want to buy a generic boxed product that may or may not continue in the direction they need, and get locked into it in the process. Go proprietary.
  • Re:Postgres? (Score:3, Informative)

    by JohanV (536228) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:39AM (#12134188) Homepage
    PostgreSQL not backed by a commercial group? You must be kidding. Just look at the Developer Bios [postgresql.org] page to see which companies back PostgreSQL. The core committee is employed by 6 different companies and if you look further down you will see many more. And several large contributors to the project, like Pervasive and Fujitsu which employ several full-time hackers and a support staff, aren't even in the list there.

    PostgreSQL is not backed by a single commercial group, it is backed by many commercial groups. It is doing just fine that way, and will continue to do fine even if one off those backers goes belly up. That has happened before, that will happen again and exactly because there is no single controlling commercial interest group that does hardly affect the PostgreSQL development.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:51AM (#12134311)
    However, there are some important differences.

    a. source is open and you are free to modify it, fix it, and submit patches to developer. Through developer consensus you can force a vendor to acknowledge an issue and fix it. Without source, you can't do this, and the vendor will often stonewall you.
    b. you can demo it for as long as you like, on as many machines as you need to, without worrying about licensing issues disrupting your R&D. Some of us have projects with deadlines that sometimes interfere with R&D. a 30 or 60 day demo doesn't always allow us to do what we need to do. Some vendors balk when you ask for an extension.
    c. you are paying for support, not the software. If you are a cash strapped company, you can use the software for free, and donate or buy support when cash becomes available. what a lot of proprietary companies overlook is the fact that by using the software up front, it can be possible to pay for it later, when you can't afford it, you never have the opportunity.

    my 2 cents... no matter how you slice it, open source allows more opportunity, and profit. Eventually, everyone needs support ; )
  • True, but (Score:4, Informative)

    by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gmail . c om> on Monday April 04, 2005 @01:26PM (#12135936) Homepage Journal
    In certain circumstances, open source projects are very dependent on vendor support. For example, MySQL (because even the client libs are licensed under essentially the GPL, which prevents linking with many other open source projects), and to a lesser extent BerkelyDB. If MySQL AB went out of business today, MySQL (the open source database management system) IMO would likely be seriously wounded. Yes, it may continue, but I don't think it would continue with anywhere near the momentum it has today until such a time as a new version comes out with a new protocol.and completely rewritten client libs.

    You can divide open source software into two groups. There are those which are dual licensed (esp. those which are restrictively dual-licensed, such as MySQL) and there are those which are real community projects. The first case could be effectively destroyed or at least set back a number of years by the vendor going out of business, while the second will continue without anyone.

    The article makes the mistake of assuming that these are the same. They are not.
  • Re:I call bull (Score:3, Informative)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Monday April 04, 2005 @07:33PM (#12139619)
    A great example of why most companies shouldn't fear Open source, is the ERP market.

    I work for a steel mill. Years ago they bought out the source code to their "proprietary" ERP system because they needed changes the company didn't want to support.. Of course they still pay maintenance fees for what amounts to 50%+ their own stuff, but we couldn't move to a "new" version from the company without lots of $$$$.

    But how would their situation differ if they used Open source software? They pay third-party programmers to come in and modify their system because they need it to work...now. If it was a Sourceforge project, they could "just fix it" and benifit from lots of other people helping too!

    In a corperate situation the GPL doesn't hurt you that much. After all, you only have to provide source to whom you distribute binaries to. Most corperate software is "locked" into the company...it never leaves company property... so the only people who have the binaries are the IT staff...[isn't that clever]

    I understand that intarrweb programming is slightly different... Web sites are considered by some to "distribute" the web pages... and that gets sticky. But in general, most corperate sites use 75% their own stuff, to be used for their business. Even if they were forced to release it, It'd be useless to 90% of the public... as long as it was stripped of proprietary info.. [passwords, accounting settings, that kind of thing aren't covered..you could release a "stripped" version if you needed to]

    The sticky thing right now is that GPL doesn't cover USE of programs.. they really are free. GPL only covers distribution of programs... It's a subtle difference, but 75%+ of corperate software doesn't even vaguely fall under "distributed" so it's really nothing to worry about. Example: even if you gave a contractor a GPL program to use, it would be covered under confidential agreements like blueprints or anything else... They can't just "release it on the internet" because they have a copy.

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