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Is MySQL's Community Eating the Company? 223

mjasay writes "Craigslist's Jeremy Zawodny reviews the progress of MySQL as a project, and discovers that through third-party forks and enhancements like Drizzle and OurDelta 'you can get a "better" MySQL than the one Sun/MySQL gives you today. For free.' Is this a good thing? On one hand it demonstrates the strong community around MySQL, but on the other, it could make it harder for Sun to fund core development on MySQL by diverting potential revenue from the core database project. Is this the fate of successful open-source companies? To become so successful as a community that they can't eke out a return as a company? If so, could anyone blame MySQL/Sun for creating its own proprietary fork in order to afford further core development?"
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Is MySQL's Community Eating the Company?

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  • Welcome to GPL/OSS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 15, 2008 @11:29AM (#26120167)

    This is always the case when you release open source. Someone else can offer support cheaper than you. Someone else can make modifications that people want. Someone else can even fork it and choke you out if they're doing whatever gets more attention than what you are doing. The good news (for them) is that you provided them a getting-started point with all your work so they didn't have to put all that time (and money, since time is money) into getting it off the ground. This is the way GPL/OSS is *supposed* to work. You have to keep investing more time and money while pushing and driving your costs to zero or you'll get snaked by just about anyone else who has the motivation to do so.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @11:33AM (#26120209) Journal

    If it's all OSS, then why isn't MySQL picking up the best 3rd party pieces and rolling them back into the official distribution?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 15, 2008 @11:43AM (#26120289)

    The summary, also posted on Matt Asay's CNET blog, has little to nothing to do with either Zawodny's blog post nor reality. Return on investment? Sun wanted eyeballs, some strange sort of open source marketshare, and various other bits of MySQL AB. They got it. I don't think anybody ever thought it was about turning MySQL into a profit center. Eke out a return? That has nothing to do with what Sun is all about, in much the same way as Novell isn't trying to get rich by selling disks of SUSE.

  • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @11:43AM (#26120295)

    MySQL seems to be a project with alot of mindshare that doesn't execute well.

    With commercial software, you're screwed when the vendor decides to do stupid things. With OSS, you have options besides moving to a new platform or living with the vendor's stupid decisions.

    At the end of the day, this is good for everyone, and is an example of why OSS is good for society.

  • In a word, 'yes' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StringBlade ( 557322 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @11:50AM (#26120381) Journal

    Sun/MySQL can and should be blamed if they are failing the community that made MySQL so popular and strong.

    Sun has a bad reputation for having very closed open source projects such as OpenOffice. The project is managed much more like a proprietary venture than an open source project and community input is minimized or ignored altogether.

    I can't feel sorry for Sun when they drop buku bucks on MySQL and then complain that others are taking their revenue away from them doing what the OSS community does best - improve the software on their own.

  • by neomunk ( 913773 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:17PM (#26120631)

    I think it's Taco's way of passive-aggressive intellectual baiting. He wants us to get pissed about the idea and shoot it down thoroughly.

    At least that's what I -HOPE- is going on.

  • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:27PM (#26120711) Journal

    An important question is not whether the Open Source community is eating some of SUN's cake, but whether the cake itself (and thus SUN's total amount of cake) is larger because of the community. I don't have any figures but this is at least a considerable possibility. After all you have something technically superior like PostgreSQL *ahem* ;) but MySQL has far greater popularity which I think it would have been held back from without the surrounding community and their efforts.

    Half of a big cake or all of a small one. SUN bet on the former, I think.
  • Re:In a word, 'yes' (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:35PM (#26120795) Homepage Journal

    Sun/MySQL can and should be blamed if they are failing the community that made MySQL so popular and strong.

    Up front: I think MySQL sucks. Having said that, how dare you blame them for "failing" in any way, having given the community the product in the first place? They released it as Free Software from the beginning. Anything they do after that is just icing on the cake. You can wish that they did things differently, but they don't owe jack to "the community" other than obeying the license on any code that comes back their way.

    Well, other than quit lying by saying that you have to buy a commercial license if you want to use MySQL with commercial software. That's irksome and I think they should stop doing that. But besides that, it's their ball and their game.

  • Re:In a word, 'yes' (Score:3, Interesting)

    by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:17PM (#26121255)

    So to suggest that "the community" is owed nothing for their efforts (developing, testing, debugging, suggesting improvements, etc) is also näive.

    I'm not sure how the community is owed anything. They have what they are guaranteed: code and a license that allows them to take it (almost) wherever they want. Seems like payment in full to me. The accounts are balanced and everyone can split right now - although it would probably be mutually beneficial if everyone continued to play nice (especially Sun).

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:39PM (#26121573) Homepage Journal
    Using Linux as an example, most of the "mega patchsets" could be considered forks from the vanilla kernel but end up testing the component patches extensively, allowing for a better choice of what goes mainstream. In other words, the "forks" have accelerated Linux kernel development. The distro-specific patches - well, not too sure about those, but more than a few have also made it mainstream - again likely for the same reason. Better testing by more people. (This is not to fault the Linux development model, quite the opposite. It's praise for the number of imaginative ways that patches have been brought to people's attention and praise for the handling of the logistics of so many patchsets - pseudo-forks, I guess you could call them - that the Linux kernel developers manage superbly. Sun would be wise to look to these people for inspiration on how to combine the best from the forks and how to know what the best even is.)
  • Exactly. I have very few problems with Sun, and I don't HATE Microsoft like so many people do. Making money is not evil. I wouldn't want to see the MySQL project thrash Sun. Although I doubt it will: Most companies I've heard speak about their software support DEMAND professional support they can call whenever they have a problem. Sun provides that.
  • I don't HATE Microsoft like so many people do. Making money is not evil.

    Note: I strongly dislike Microsoft, but not because they're profitable.

  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raddan ( 519638 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:19PM (#26122157)
    If Sun were smart, they would take advantage of the many places where the use of MySQL could be enhanced by Sun's other products, e.g., Solaris/OpenSolaris or ZFS, and use MySQL as a carrot to lure people into the Sun ecosystem. Once that happens, it is much easier to get someone to consider buying a support contract. This is essentially how CentOS worked for us wrt RHEL.

    Your point is a good one because we do have competent DBAs here, and Sun's addons don't add much value for us. But entire systems are complex enough that we might consider a Sun support contract for HA machines that ran MySQL.
  • by weiserfireman ( 917228 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:41PM (#26122505) Homepage
    First thing,

    I am a hardware guy by inclination and training. I had some programming experience, but never enjoyed it.

    I also tend to look more at the business side of things sometimes. I am the Chairman of my Company's ESOP committee. We are 100% employee owned. We are not an IT company. I am the only IT person.

    I have always had a hard time believing in the business model of the Open Source community. As an IT person and a software customer, I can appreciate the ability to view and modify the source of software that isn't doing everything I want it to do, but as a business person, I have a hard time picturing a long term model where open source is a product I can make money off of.

    In the short term, customers would purchase the software and support from me, but as the community grew around the software, it would fork in new unsupported directions, the community and customers would become more savy and need less support from me.

    Long term, I think open source will work real well for drivers, routers, switches items that the hardware is secondary to the appliance.

    But for standalone software products like Databases? I just can't see it, no matter how many Open Source advocates try to convince me of it.
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @05:39PM (#26125059)

    "So, Developer Danny, I notice that 8 out of your last 10 commits have had someone else's name on them. Can you explain to us what value you bring to SUN, and why we shouldn't just hire or reward the 3rd party contributors directly?"

    Which of the six developers who's work I committed do you propose to hire? If they're busy vetting other people's code, when will they have time to keep writing this great stuff?

    This is known as the "developer as interior decorator" model, where the developer is hired on their ability to mix and match code that is in good taste that blends attractively with the existing architecture.

  • Re:Wrong question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LizardKing ( 5245 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @08:53PM (#26127285)

    Remember Sparcworks, the official, surprisingly expensive compiler for Solaris with really annoying license requirements that your management made you buy, that immediately became shelfware in favor of the free and far superior GCC if you hoped to do anything approaching ANSI C development?

    You mean the Sun compiler that is ANSI compliant and produces better (smaller, faster) code than GCC? And what's "annoying" about the license? At my last firm we developed trading software for Solaris, and none of our customers gave a fuck about the Sun compiler license (although one insisted on our code being compiled with it, thanks to bad experiences running GCC compiled code on Solaris thanks to previous issues with a shared libgcc).

  • by Bytal ( 594494 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @09:12PM (#26127451) Homepage

    RedHat and MySQL are in a completely different line of business, and I don't mean OS vs database.

    RedHat provides a product that is better and often more functional then the alternatives (Windows, Solaris) but still requires a large amount of maintenance. Large, non-technical corporations are very likely to both use RedHat Linux for functionality and to prefer "official" hand-holding for peace of mind.

    MySQL is favored by either small, startup level firms or tech firms with high skill levels. The first one is not likely to pay for support and the second one does not need it.

    The the same business model for the two products offers nowhere near the same levels of revenue in each case. The only way I can see this being profitable for Sun is if they start adding high end features into MySQL that would let it overshoot Oracle and IBM for some specific use cases. Use cases that would make it attractive to the RedHat using companies. Hopefully, that is what the Sun execs were thinking when they bought MySQL.

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