Monday, December 14, 2009

Monty's appeal is selfless!

What many people don't get is that Monty's appeal to the MySQL community to help save MySQL is really quite selfless.

The fact is, Monty's own company, Monty Program Ab, stands to benefit the most from bad stewardship of MySQL by Oracle.

If Oracle slows and closes up development, rejects community contributions and creates a commercial version of MySQL, then Monty Program's MariaDB fork will become very popular, very quickly.

Which would translate into income for Monty Program Ab as customers come to his company for additions, features and bug fixes that they need to secure there own production.

What Monty is concerned about is the commercial vendors of MySQL (one of which Monty Program is not).

These vendors either:
  • OEM MySQL and integrate it into a commercial software or hardware product, or
  • they produce a closed source (or dual-license) storage engine, which is sold with a commercial version of MySQL.
Oracle could kill both businesses, and this is Monty's main concern. As Monty explained in a phone call this morning: he sees the existence of commercial/dual-license vendors of MySQL as very important to the long-term survival of "his baby".

Of course Oracle cannot prevent 3rd parties from continuing to offer consulting, support and training for MySQL. But close sourcing and vigorous enforcement of trademarks can make things very difficult for such companies.

Unfortunately Oracles latest concessions may not be enough to satisfy investors in MySQL based technology either, because there is no guarantee of what happens after 5 years.

15 comments:

lsmith said...

Well if that is the case, then maybe they shouldnt have attacked Eben on the points on which they agree with anyways.

Sure if you are a vendor of proprietary products that are based on MySQL you had to worry. Oh from what I remember plenty did with the Sun deal. Of course with Oracle concession to allow non GPL storage engines they are now safer than before (for all I care Monty can chalk this concession up to his cry for help).

Of course less licensing fees paid for MySQL, probably also means less developer time for MySQL, which I guess is the main argument Monty puts forth that still has any validity. Does that legitimize his requests and the heavy weight he puts on any future OSS companies trying to get investors/funding?

I am honestly more concerned about the damage the focus on checking off items from a feature list together with the centralized copyright have caused.

In that light I think having an Oracle that does are for what MySQL is good at (rather than trying to turn MySQL into Oracle) is an opportunity. I also think that an Oracle that tries to kill MySQL is an opportunity since then we can finally turn MySQL into a community OSS project, where again we can stop trying to turn MySQL into the next Oracle killer.

Anonymous said...

> If Oracle slows and closes up
> development, rejects community
> contributions and creates a
> commercial version of MySQL, then
> Monty Program's MariaDB fork will
> become very popular, very quickly.

Then why is Monty arguing the exact opposite -- that a fork will NEVER be popular no matter what?

Monty said...

I regard Eben as a dear friend, I like him and I would never attack him. (I have even donated a lot of money to his cause to ensure that he can continue to work on defending Free Software!).

What case are you referring to ?

Eben and I agree on a lot of topics, like that the GPL license is probably one of the best Open Source licenses. We have different opinions of the importance of dual licensing, where GPL is strong and weak, and what is the best solution for MySQL, but mostly we agree to disagree, without hard feelings.

About investments:
The ony effect this case will not affect investment in Open Source (especially GPL project) is to strengthen them it and make it easier to get investment in Open Source.

The logic is this:

- This case has nothing to with Open Source, but with competition law.
- Investor's are very familiar with competition law.
- This case proofs that Open Source products works exactly the same as closed source products when it comes to competition law. This is very good, as Investors like that things that are 'like before' instead of having to learn something new.
- What is new, that was not sure before, is that Open Source enjoys the same kind of protection against overtakers "with bad intentions", that are directly competing in the same market. This will not necessary make investors happier, but makes things easier for founders and creators of open source projects as they know that their investment in the project will be protected for the future. (In other words, it's harder to kill their products)

Mark Callaghan said...

The concessions give the community 5 years to get their act together. Right now we are in disarray.

I understand concern from companies who need an OEM agreement to bundle their closed-source app with MySQL. I have no clue on the size of that market but I will guess it is signficant -- at least when compared to the size of the market for closed-source storage engines.

I cannot believe the merger would be delayed out of concern for closed-source storage engines. What is the customer base there? InfoBright is the only company that appears to have more than 10 customers. Why destroy Sun to protect this? What is the public interest?

In both cases it is ironic that people demand that MySQL remain open source so they can build closed-source products.

Anonymous said...

"Selfless" implies some level of sacrifice. Monty already got his money - he's making no sacrifice. He may genuinely be concerned about the future of MySQL under Oracle, but it's not "his baby" any more.

One can discount the duration of the promises Oracle offers - Sun made no such promises when it acquired MySQL, and nobody is really in a position to say they will do these types of things interminably. It's folly to say, "make Oracle say they will develop MySQL for the next 25 years", or whatever period of time floats your boat.

Monty wants control back, plain and simple. He wanted it back when Sun had control (remember the 5.1 GA rants?). Now is just the best opportunity for him to get that control back on the cheap. I don't begrudge him trying, but let's call it for what it is: opportunistic FUD-slinging for the sake of control.

Anonymous said...

"What Monty is concerned about is the commercial vendors of MySQL (one of which Monty Program is not)."

That hardly makes Monty selfless. Perhaps it is quite possible that Monty wishes to sell his wares to customers requiring commercial licenses, and cannot, due to the constraints of the dual-licensing schema that earned him millions.

Maybe he's actually selfish, in that he wants Monty Program AB to expand into areas where it currently cannot. Maybe that's why he says that changing the license from GPL to something allowing this type of business would be an acceptable solution.

Paul McCullagh said...

I am quoting the following comment by Rasmus [Lerdorf?] to the blog Come on Monty, because I think is is also relevant to this blog:

"Small companies with commercial MySQL licenses to embed MySQL in things are at risk. Oracle could cut them off completely or price them out. A couple of stipulations from the EC regarding maintaining reasonable license prices, the documentation and the current licensing model would help.

Also, the idea that Monty is out to regain control of the code for business purposes through manipulation of the EC regulators, as I have seen mentioned a few places, is ridiculous. That would be a smart and devious business move and anybody who knows Monty knows that he is the exact opposite of a smart and devious business person.

It took me a little while to get past the, "But Monty, you created this mess and made millions from it..." view as well. In the end the only question that matters for the EC regulators is whether Oracle gaining control of MySQL will be anti-competitive and I think it is hard to argue that there are no opportunities for Oracle to be anti-competitive here."

George Reese said...

There's absolutely nothing selfless about the following chain:

* Licensing something under a restrictive dual license to maximize your ability to gain exposure AND control your IP.
* Selling out and making gobs of money off of transferring that control to another entity.
* Demanding back the ability to fork the original IP AND control the IP fork without paying a dime.

In fact, that's the very height of selfishness.

Monty's choice, Sun, was an awful steward of MySQL.

While Oracle is not likely to be a good steward of MySQL, there are two critical points:

* They paid for the right to do with MySQL whatever pleases them.
* It's not like Monty helped MySQL by selling to Sun; he just helped himself. I don't see any evidence his motives are any less selfish today.

Anonymous said...

"That would be a smart and devious business move and anybody who knows Monty knows that he is the exact opposite of a smart and devious business person."

Monty made millions - millions - by way of the dual source licensing scheme he helped define and advocate. I have a very difficult time accepting that we should accept his motives as pure based on the idea that he is some sort of business neophyte.

Yes, Monty frequently clashed with more traditional business types, but even he has enough experience with making money from dual-licensing to understand that he can't do that with Sun/Oracle having control of the trademark and code. He's recruited a number of developers from Sun to his company, but the one-time buyout isn't going to pay their salaries forever. There's some good money to be made in small feature requests, but he can currently only sell to customers deploying GPL-licensed code. The dual-licensing scheme made him money, and now it prevents him from making the same type of money now that he doesn't own the trademark and code. It doesn't take a devious, or even particularly smart, business person to realize this.

Anonymous said...

"If Oracle slows and closes up development, rejects community contributions and creates a commercial version of MySQL, then Monty Program's MariaDB fork will become very popular, very quickly."

Amusing note:

"slows ... development" - Like, for instance, Monty has done by poaching MySQL developers from Sun?

"rejects community contributions" - Like, for instance, the appearance created by offering MPAB patches back to Sun/MySQL under license terms incompatible with the SCA?

"creates a commercial version of MySQL" - Already exists.

Looks like you've got a good handle on the playbook for how a non-devious, non-smart business person such as Monty might hypothetically promote his stuff.

Just sayin'.

qu1j0t3 said...

It's not "his baby" any more!

And the "selfless" argument accepts as a given that Oracle will let MySQL die on the vine. There are many rational reasons why they would not.

If Oracle's intentions are opaque, Widenius' motives are no less opaque. He risks serious embarrassment himself by advocating that the EU, as Deus ex machina, strip the GPL, the last layer of protection for the MySQL community and platform. To that extent this issue is *very much* "about Open Source"!

It's time to let go and build "what comes after MySQL". Even a casual observer can see conventional RDBMS architectures straining to keep up with today's data environments, hence the growth of the NoSQL movement. If a fraction of the talent already shed by MySQL AB, combined with the brains at Primebase, and all the other community contributors can rise to that challenge, Oracle may easily find itself on the defensive once more - to the market's gain!

Mr Widenius, you've created one technology so incredibly disruptive that Oracle (the market leader) finally had to buy it - why not move on and create the next one? You already have the support and respect of geeks and suits alike. But you won't keep it by insisting on this contrarian, easily misconstrued campaign.

Paul McCullagh said...

Thanks you qu1j0t3, for a truelly constructive idea!

Monty said...

To Anonymous regarding fork:
Paul is right, a fork like MariaDB can be very popular (ie, have high usage), but even then, as no one has to pay to use the fork, there is very little money to be made that can be put into development to compete with Oracle, especially if Oracle is putting 20 million in developing a closed source version of MySQL that you have to try to keep up with.

Monty said...

To Georg Reese:

- Yes, we licensed MySQL under a restrictive Open Source license to be enable to get enough income to hire a lot of developers and do full time development of MySQL as an Open Source product.
- The selling off happened in 2001, when MySQL AB was created. After that I have been working as an employee on the MySQL project, together with a lot of other developers inside and outside of MySQL AB. The one right I had left was an insurance that within MySQL AB the MySQL server could not have any closed source components. This insurance disappeared when Sun bought MySQL.
- It was the Board of MySQL AB that sold MySQL to Sun, not me. I had *no* influence over the deal. I moved to Sun and continued to work on MySQL. Why I quit Sun is a known story.
- I did get some money for my shares, but so did a lot of other people.
- I intend to continue to work on MySQL/MariaDB for a long time, to ensure that it lives on as long as possible.

It looks like you think it's a bad idea to license code under GPL; I disagree and so would most people in the Open Source community.

However, about demanding back the ability to fork, that is not what the case is about, it's about the future existence of MySQL as an Open Source product.

With Sun, or any owner of MySQL who is committed to Open Source and has only things to gain by continuing to develop MySQL, the GPL is a good license for MySQL.

The problem with the GPL license, for a product like MySQL, arises if MySQL would be owned by someone that has a lot to gain by killing it or changing it to a closed source product.

The question that has been raised is the following: Under which circumstances would it make sense to let Oracle buy MySQL but at the same time have an ensurance that Oracle has a true motivation to continue develop MySQL and we have an insurance that MySQL can't get killed if Oracle would try to do it.

The only simple answers I have to the above question is:
- Avoid the problem and don't allow Oracle to buy MySQL
- Change MySQL to be under a less permissive license.

For me, both of the above solutions are fine as both ensures that MySQL lives on.

Pontius said...

Strange how different opions can be.
I tend to believe Sheeri Cabral (http://www.pythian.com/news/6427/a-mysql-community-member-opinion-of-oracle-buying-sun/).