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MySQL Cofounder Says Oracle Should Sell Database To a Neutral 3d Party 207

Posted by timothy
from the richard-stallman-agrees dept.
alphadogg writes "Oracle should resolve antitrust concerns over its acquisition of Sun Microsystems by selling open-source database MySQL to a suitable third party, its cofounder and creator Michael 'Monty' Widenius said in a blog post on Monday. Oracle's $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun is currently being held up by an investigation by the European Commission. The Commission's main concern seems to be MySQL, which was acquired by Sun in January 2008 for $1 billion. A takeover by the world's leading proprietary database company of the world's leading open source database company compels the regulator to closely examine the effects on the European market, according to remarks made by Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes last month. The key objective by Widenius is to find a home outside Oracle for MySQL, where the database can be developed and compete with existing products, including Oracle's, according to Florian Mueller, a former MySQL shareholder who is currently working with Monty Program AB on this matter." Richard Stallman agrees.
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MySQL Cofounder Says Oracle Should Sell Database To a Neutral 3d Party

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  • 3D? (Score:5, Funny)

    by clone53421 (1310749) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:32PM (#29809945) Journal

    Yeah, those 2D parties are shallow and make for thin plots.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    SCO?

  • by e2d2 (115622) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:33PM (#29809973)

    I'll take "Things you should have thought about before selling to Sun" for 1000 Alex

    • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @01:39PM (#29811187)

      Exactly.

      He took the money.

      It had always been quasi open-source, and free to use, and he sold it to Sun. Now when it is acquired by a company who's only purpose for buying Sun was to kill this product and eat its heart he gets religion?

    • When you sell your pride and joy. The best thing to do is take your money and no longer think about it. Otherwise you will be frustrated because the new owner doesn't care about it as much as you did.

  • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:33PM (#29809977)

    MySQL is open source. Why is there a big argument about who controls it? If whoever is controlling it goes in a direction that people don't like, don't you just fork it? If people really are worried about the future of MySQL, shouldn't there already be a fork?

    • by indraneil (1011639) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:44PM (#29810203)
      There is already a fork [askmonty.org] that is being worked upon by Monty (who was the founder of MySQL) I suspect the real contention is over the brand MySQL (which has significant mind-share) which was transferred to SUN and will now go to Oracle.
      A lot of medium sized companies use MySQL today and have support contracts with who-so-ever owns the brand itself. They I guess are the ones who are worried - choosing another database is often not an option.
      • by mckinnsb (984522) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @01:14PM (#29810719)
        I would also suspect that there is a great deal of concern over the fact that many web hosting providers offer MySQL as the included database for a cheap, base-level, non-configurable package. Turnover of mindshare in that market seems to be extremely slow -I've noticed the cheaper packages tend to be sold to the technophobic. Many hosting providers will be inclined to stick with MySQL and MySQL support contracts with Oracle. This is part of what Oracle purchased, to be honest, but the EU has the right to examine if this is fair play.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by srw (38421)

          So, that's why Mambo has such a huge mindshare in the CMS world?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by twofishy (1658233)
        Agree with this. I think though it is interesting to me that he has shown his hand so openly - I wonder if he suspects he's about to loose. Basically Monty made a ton of money selling MySQL to Sun (way more than it was worth) and has considerable vested interest in Oracle being forced to sell MySQL because, I guess, he wants to buy it back again. He has overseen a slew of measures that are designed to keep MySQL alive outside of Oracle including the MariaDB fork and formation the Open Database Alliance t
    • by Nadaka (224565) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:44PM (#29810207)

      The letter by RMS addresses that question. That being that the commercially licensed version of MySQL funded suns continued development of the GPL'ed MySQL, and oracle would have a conflict of interest in continuing to develop and license a low cost alternative to its high priced core product.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by reashlin (1370169)
        is MySQL really an alternative to Oracle?

        I mean sure it 'technically' is. But someone likely to use MySQL isnt looking for such an enterprise product such as Oracle and people looking to spend their money on Oracle can't/wont settle for MySQL. I thought this was basically what the EU said anyway.
        • Depends what for. Oracle is sometimes used for jobs that MySQL could do, that does not mean that MySQL can do everything Oracle can do.

          • by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @01:36PM (#29811113)

            Indeed not, but with most open source products there is usually a trend upwards. PostgreSQL is already a better bet towards gaining capabilities rivaling Oracle eventually, but with enough development MySQL could have eventually made it that far too. You can bet now however, that the Oracle controlled MySQL code base will NEVER gain feature parity with the main Oracle DBMS. It'll be basically stuck now as the less featured, less capable freebie that Oracle gives away to customers hoping to get working relationships built up in order to sell them the more expensive product.

            Doesn't bother me much - at work they make me use Microsoft SQL Server and at home I stick to PostgreSQL, but still, it's sad to see a project like this end up in such a dead-end position.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by BitZtream (692029)

              And this is different than MySQL has been for years?

              The commercial version of MySQL has always had more features than the GPL version.

              It is CURRENTLY stuck as the less featured, less capable freebie that Sun gives away. It sells the more feature rich version.

              The situation you describe as a concern is the situation that already exists. Funny part is, when MySQL went this route originally everyone bitched and moaned, RMS included. Now he's promoting it as a requirement for MySQLs survive.

              And people continu

            • An example from outside computer-land: back in the day, supposedly, the folks at Pontiac developed a high performance version of the Fiero, which was originally a low-cost inspired by the Fiat 1/9. I believe the hipro version had a V-8.

              The problem with it was that the price point for the hot Fiero was about 1/2 the price of a Corvette, and the Fiero outran the Corvette. Chevy complained that this would sully the 'flagship' of the GM lineup, and the hipro Fiero was killed. And, eventually, so was Pontiac

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            Very true. Sometimes organizations only want to support one database, so whatever database they end up picking (Oracle, MS SQL Server) get's used for absolutely everything, regardless of the fact that a free database (such as MySQL or PostgreSQL) would do the job just fine. It comes down to, pay the license for each need, or pay database admins to manage multiple RDBMSs.
        • MySQL competes with Oracles ability to compete in the space MySQL currently occupies (see Oracle Database 10g Express Edition). The company I worked for happily paid for expensive Oracle licensing for years before becoming comfortable enough with MySQL to begin to transition away from the enterprise licensing (and growth limiting cost). We didn't really need all the features, so we didn't effectively gain much of anything by using their database, but at the time our company started they seemed the best choi
        • by BitZtream (692029)

          No, not in any of its, or its developers wettest dreams. The mere thought that it is shows that the two are completely out of touch with reality.

          Part of the argument is that Oracle is 'used for things MySQL can do', which is true both ways, and a flawed argument. Excel is used for things MySQL can do, doesn't make them competing products.

          PostgreSQL is something that can be considered a Oracle alternative, not a replacement. MySQL is a completely different class of database useful for different purposes (

        • That is true right now yes, but there remains the issue of a possible conflict of interest with regard to future development. For example, suppose that someone submits some source code to MySQL that enables a "high-end" or "premium" feature that was previously only available in the more expensive "enterprise" Oracle products. Might not there be a disincentive for Oracle to merge those competing features into the "official" MySQL trunk? Despite what Oracle says or promises, their ownership of MySQL represent
      • by BitZtream (692029)

        What low priced alternative would be in conflict. MySQL is NOT an alternative to Oracle, they are in completely different classes.

        If you don't know this already I suspect you know very little about database servers in general.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:45PM (#29810225) Journal
      It's GPL'd and requires copyright assignment. That means that whoever owns it can release it under whatever license they like, including using it in proprietary products, while everyone else can only use it if they abide by the terms of the GPL. Although, why anyone still cares about MySQL when there are better, more permissively licensed, alternatives available is beyond me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekmansworld (950281)

      The problem is that MySQL the company is a significant contributor to MySQL the project. Personally, I see a lot of value in MySQL, but lately the open-source community's love seems to be shifting to PostgreSQL. So I'm guessing that there's some question as to whether the MySQL project could go it alone without the resources the company provides.

    • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:48PM (#29810283)

      Or move over to another F/OSS database. Postgres has outdone mysql for "enterprise" features for many years (anyone else remember mysql people telling you that transactions were something that should be handled outside the database?) with the exception of replication support, and sqlite reportedly outperforms it in its traditional market (few writes but many selects over simple but potentially large structures). There are other options out there. A fork would face the same problem these other options have: mysql, the "official" version where-ever that lives these days, has a large amount of market inertia.

      (I'm not trying to grind an anti-mysql axe here, though I do prefer the other options myself depending on circumstances, just pointing out that a fork would only be any good to the market if enough people use it and getting that elusive "enough people" market share might not be easy)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      In theory that might be a good idea. However, in practice, forks only have two realistic outcomes. Either they're just plain ignored--as is the case with present MySQL forks, or they divide and segregate the user base. The consequences of the later could potentially prove the undoing of the project. Relying upon products with an unstable and uncertain future make management types nervous...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Abreu (173023)

        What do you mean?

        GNU IceCat is as popular as... IceWeasel ...

        nevermind

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Icegryphon (715550)
      Because if people don't like the fork then someone else will fork it.
      So on, and so on, until MySQL is forked so many times people will call it a slut?
    • There is more to the project than just the source. First, some of the people are still working for Sun/Oracle. Their expertise is kind of important, and it is not so easy to just pick up the source and start making changes.

      The other issue is the documentation. That is not so free. The mysql documentation is considerable and is a tremendous resource. Back in the day, it was the deciding reason that I went with mysql. If I went on purely technical requirements alone I would have likely chosen a different plat

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jim Hall (2985)

      Here's what RMS said in the letter:

      MySQL uses the parallel licensing approach to generate revenue to continue the FLOSS development of the software. If Oracle acquired MySQL, it would then be the only entity able to release the code other than under the GPL. Oracle would not be obligated to diligently sell or reasonably price the MySQL commercial licenses. More importantly, Oracle is under no obligation to use the revenues from these licenses to advance MySQL. In making decisions in these matters, Oracle is

      • That makes sense, I hadn't considered that sales of the commercial license were used to advance development of the software in general. The arguments that RMS gives make sense.

      • by samkass (174571)

        So RMS's basic assertion is that GPL itself wouldn't work as a viable way to develop a package like MySQL, and couldn't compete against someone with a proprietary license? Or am I missing something?

        The whole point of the MySQL sale was that Sun paid money to acquire the copyright and trademark assets. If some external group wants to raise a billion dollars and buy the product back they can do what they'd like (including giving it away). Otherwise, they took the money and that's what happens.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by turbidostato (878842)

        "So basically, RMS is concerned that Oracle really would fork MySQL, and end the dual-licensing for any future versions they release."

        Where have you read that in RMS's letter?

        As I read it, RMS is concerned not because Oracle will close future MySQL development but because they will be the only ones that can profit from dual licensing MySQL and they won't do that because it would make it competing against their cash cow. Oracle would be much better served if they allow MySQL to slowly stagnate -and the poin

      • by rgviza (1303161)

        I'm all for OurSQL.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      MySQL's business plan is to sell proprietary licences to people who don't want a free version for whatever reason, and to use this money to fund development of the software. You wouldn't be able to do this with a forked version of the software so you would have to rely a lot more on donations and volunteers to fund development work. Also, the people who don't want to use a free database program would go somewhere else for a proprietary solution, so this would dilute the network effect of other people deve

    • by jadavis (473492)

      just fork

      If you "just" fork, then you "just" have source code.

      Bug fixes, support, organization, new releases, infrastructure, or anything else will cost extra. Communities that do this aren't ethereal entities that magically accomplish work; they are people, and it takes a long time to put a real team together. It takes even longer if you start with a budget of $0. Respected leaders like Monty can do it more quickly, but even then, it's a serious challenge.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davecb (6526) *

      There isn't a real arguement at all: it's recently come out that a/the objector to MySQL going to Oracle was Microsoft. I strongly suspect it's a put-up job, astroturfing the EC to hurt a competitor.

      --dave (who want the deal to complete so he can get more capacity planning gigs) c-b

  • Bring on the hate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geekmansworld (950281) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:42PM (#29810159) Homepage

    Okay, here goes... Maybe they should sell it to Apple?

    Yes, hate me, throw things at me. But Apple DOES love MySQL, it's an essential part of OS X Server. Unlike Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, Apple doesn't own an existing database product. Also keep in mind that MySQL the commercial product is not necessarily synonymous to MySQL the open-source project.

    Unfortunately, MySQL uses the GPL, whereas Apple has always preferred to open-source under the Apache license.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dynedain (141758)

      Unlike Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, Apple doesn't own an existing database product.

      Ummm.... Filemaker?

      Granted it's a horrible POS that makes Access look clean and well-developed, but as someone who has to suffer with using it on a daily basis, it IS a database product.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by apokruphos (911590)

        Unlike Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, Apple doesn't own an existing useful database product.

        Fixed for pedantry. As another person who has to deal with it on a daily basis, the thought of willfully using Filemaker in a development project is sure sign of technical incompetence.

        • If you're the type of person that does "development projects" than yeah, Filemaker is a severely misguided choice of database software. You aren't the intended market for that product.

          It's meant to make ad-hoc databases on-the-fly (minutes or hours, not days). The right tool for the right project and all that. It's strength is in letting someone with little technical know how juggle data in ways that a spreadsheet can't.

          Bash Filemaker all you want, but it does what it's intended to. It's almost like t
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Access is barely a database, and I say that as someone who has to suffer with using it on a daily basis. I wish someone would port NOMAD to the PC.

    • by 0racle (667029)

      it's an essential part of OS X Server

      It is?

    • Yes, I would love to only be legally allowed to run MySQL on Apple-approved hardware...
      • by jonbryce (703250)

        You can run CUPS on your Ubuntu box without any problems. Why should MySQL be any different?

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        And what other OSS has Apple done this with exactly?

        Go ahead and track it down, I'll wait.

    • Ummm.... Filemaker?

      Eh... I don't know if you can equate front-end-oriented database apps like Filemaker and Access to SQL-server products. Besides, if Apple owned MySQL, would they really neglect it in favour of Filemaker Server?

      It is?

      I suppose it depends on who you ask. In my web-development circles, you need a database backend. Because MySQL comes pre-installed on OS X Server, it's sort of the default choice. So perhaps "essential" should have been "important".

    • They'd just change the name to "iSQL"...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    MySQL Cofounder Says Oracle Should Sell Database To a Neutral 3d Party

    So that leaves us with?

    mysql> use companies;
    Database changed
    mysql> select * from parties where bias = null;
    Empty set (0.00 sec)

    Hmmm ....

  • hang on, Stallman thinks it is a good idea? The kiss of death!
  • by fartrader (323244) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:45PM (#29810229)

    So its true, MySQL still doesn't support Transaction rollbacks.

  • by ShaggyZet (74769) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:53PM (#29810367) Homepage

    Sounds like a good plan. Now if they can only find a neutral 3rd party dumb enough to pay anything close to $1 billion for it. How about Computer Associates, isn't that where bad software goes to die?

  • by Kate6 (895650) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @12:56PM (#29810433) Homepage

    This makes me think of nVidia's purchase of 3dfx. 3dfx (makers of the famous Voodoo series of video cards) were very friendly to the open source community... They played a very pivotal role in the realm of 3D rendering on Linux when it was still in its infancy, contributing significantly to OpenGL. Then nVidia bought them and discontinued its entire product line... And something like 6 months later it was announced that nVidia won the contract to make the graphics chips on the original Microsoft X-Box. Coincidence?

    MySQL, by virtue of being an open source product available in a "community" version for free, has become a central part of the business model of countless small businesses. And it's just fallen into the ownership of its biggest closed-source, for-pay competitor. This could potentially have ramifications for the global economy as a whole. Very scary.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      But 3dfx cards where slow and crappy. They died and nVidia picked up what was left after nVidia and ATI killed them. nVidia has for many years produced the best 3d drivers available for Linux even though they where closed source they where free as beer. Not perfect but nVidia was supporting Linux before it was cool.

      MySQL? It has had a duel license for forever. Options like Postgres and Firebird have been around for years. So far Oracle has done nothing evil with MySQL so we should get all bent because it co

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mr_da3m0n (887821)

        But 3dfx cards where slow and crappy. They died and nVidia picked up what was left after nVidia and ATI killed them. nVidia has for many years produced the best 3d drivers available for Linux even though they where closed source they where free as beer. Not perfect but nVidia was supporting Linux before it was cool.

        Your flawed view of history offends me.

  • wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @01:02PM (#29810527) Homepage
    Someone paid $1 BILLION for a software company that made maybe a few million in revenue a year, and who already distribute most of the source code for their main product? Why?
    • Re:wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by viralMeme (1461143) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @01:11PM (#29810685)
      "Someone paid $1 BILLION for a software company that made maybe a few million in revenue a year, and who already distribute most of the source code for their main product? Why?"

      To slowly dilute its market share and ultimately mop up MySQLs customer base ..
      • by nomadic (141991)
        To slowly dilute its market share and ultimately mop up MySQLs customer base ..

        They don't have a customer base sufficiently large to be worth $1 bn.
    • by TheLink (130905)
      Seems to me that Oracle will try to convert as much of MySQL's marketshare to $$$ as possible. Kill/slow development of certain MySQL features, create some easy upgrade paths to Oracle = profit.

      Makes a lot more sense than ebay's billion dollar purchase of skype, which somehow left out the important bits :). I'm still not sure how ebay recently managed to convince others to buy skype from them...
  • They won't have a leg to stand on if they try to force this. There is an enormous amount of competition at all levels in all segments of the Database market.
  • by shoppa (464619) on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @01:04PM (#29810573)

    On several occasions I've been able to convince customers that MySQL was good enough but only because Oracle owned it:

    Here's an app, I'm using MySQL
    You can't use MySQL, we're an Oracle shop
    Oracle owns MySQL
    Well, then, that's OK then

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @01:09PM (#29810645)

    disclaimer: I work for Sun and know nothing about mysql...

    Here's what I don't get, Monte and company sell mysql to Sun for 1 billion dollars.
    I assume Monte got a decent portion of that.. I also assume that Monte had to
    sign a no compete agreement for that sum of money.

    I'm sure Sun would be more that happy to sell back mysql if
    the original owners would like to give the $1 billion back.. I'm
    guessing they wouldn't.

    I would bet Monte wouldn't even give his portion back. Could
    this be Monte trying to keep the money he got and try to get
    out of a non compete agreement? (if he did indeed sign one).

    Yes, I'm bitter... ;-) As the EU holds this up longer, more people
    @ Sun will lose jobs over political crap. If Oracle was based out
    of the EU this wouldn't have happened. I'm willing to wager if SAP
    wasn't based out of the EU, this wouldn't be delayed either...

    • by Improv (2467)

      MySQL should've been buried, not bought. It was a purchase that didn't make sense for an inferiour OSS product. We have PostgreSQL for solid opensource database needs, and we can buy Oracle or DB2/ licenses if we need something better.

      I've liked Sun for quite some time, and this purchase is among the most mysterious I've seen for a generally sensible, careful company. There are plenty of better things Sun could've done with that money, from acquisitions to projects. Seeing this, I hate to see Sun suffer, gi

  • Of course, we live in a capitalist system, so the most likely answer you'll get to that suggestion is "f*** off" but more politely worded.

    Note to open source guys. Larry Ellison thanks you for the free labor.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 20, 2009 @01:35PM (#29811079)

    Wait. I'm confused. Oracle is now evil and Microsoft isn't evil? When did this happen? As a Microsoft hater do I need to hate Oracle now too?

    I'm confused. Is this some sort of plot by Bill Gates to divide and conquer? What next!?

    At least Steve Jobs is still okay. ...or is he?

    • Larry Ellison is at least as arrogant and rapacious as anyone at Microsoft. On the other hand, he's supporting the BMW/Oracle America's cup boat, which is cool, and has stepped up to the place to force some even bigger a*(^^**^* (see 'Alinghi') via a multi-year court ase. They've finally won in court, and the race is on.

      Here's the website: BMW Oracle [bmworacleracing.com] This trimaran is 90 feet by 90 feet with top speeds approaching 50 MPH. It is a very scary boat to ride, by all accounts - or to drive. Imagine a 90 foot

  • Sun paid about 1 billion for MsSQL and Oracle says EU hold up is costing them 100s of millions of dollars a month by delaying decision which appears to largely hinge on Oracle's plans for MySQL. So Oracle must value it very highly since with a few more months of delay, Oracle reluctance to let it go will cost it more than it's worth.
    So why does Oracle care that much about MySQL? One can speculate...

  • ...is that if they keep it, it'll create Antitrust issues for them. So the suggestion is to sell it.

    Except, that's isn't exactly a good idea right now either. After all, they sold it to Sun for $1 Billion USD. What would it say if it Oracle/Sun sold it for less - even $900 Million USD? That MySQL wasn't worth $1 Billion USD; which would not be good PR for the F/OSS community, likely run afoul of Antitrust issues (for the PR reasons - especially if Oracle/Sun went - "see it mustn't have been all that good since we couldn't get what we paid for it"), but at least Oracle/Sun would get a tax write off on the difference.

    So then, why not kill two birds with one stone - spin MySQL off as its own company. Make it a non-profit (MySQL Foundation) or something; keep a seat or two of the board, and let the community fill the rest. Oracle could get very good PR for doing so too.
  • Flame bait, probably, but I was wondering what people thought of Terracotta, and technology like it [terracotta.org].
  • by t482 (193197)
    My pet theory is that SAP is helping block the merger due to Mysql MAXDB. Which I believe used to be Adibas from SAP.

    If Oracle get it hands on that they could hurt SAP revenues and grab SAP customers. I don't believe the EU will back down. I wonder it that could kill the merger?

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      we can only hope. I don't dislike Oracle databases, but them also owning Mysql would be the kiss of death for Mysql no matter what they say otherwise.
  • Perhaps they could sell it back to Monty ... I'm sure he'd know what to do with it.

  • In the letter [keionline.org] he co-authored:

    1) They all but admit that the dual-licensing is critical to the survival of not just MySQL in its current form, but also any fork derived from it.

    2) They completely fail to mention any sort of alternative business model for MySQL or any of its derivatives, i.e., no mention of the mythical "support" business model especially or anything else.

    3) They neglect the potential that code can be forked and successfully managed by un-paid volunteers.

    4) They ignore that possibility that i

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Earth shaking to who? Most people knew this all along. Most os /. may be blinded to it, but no one else is surprised.

      The idea that the whole 'support' based sales is the way to go is silly, IF it were the way to go, the massive global companies that do JUST THIS SORT OF THING as their only business model would have done it long long ago.

      Thats what these guys DO, and they don't bother. It is possible they are just slightly more clueful.

      Okay, I've got my firesuit on, you may flame now.

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