mySQL starring as Peter Pan

The American view is that there are both closed source and open source alternatives to mySQL, specifically PostgreSQL and Ingres. The European view is that open source must be allowed to grow up, and communities must be allowed to compete directly with the big boys, or competition is not real.

The debate over mySQL comes down, in part, to a question of whether mySQL should be allowed to grow up.

Certainly this was the promise when Sun acquired mySQL, that it would grow to become a "big boy" database that could go toe-to-toe with Oracle and DB2. (Robin Williams played Peter Pan against Dustin Hoffman in 1991's Hook, available at Amazon.com.)

Open source fans of the plan to acquire Sun (and mySQL) are either forgetting or ignoring this. I think Matt Asay tells it straight here:

The reality is that MySQL and Oracle compete in two different database markets.

That is today's reality, and it was yesterday's reality too. If Oracle succeeds it will be tomorrow's reality, most certainly.

But that's not the only possibility. As two UK-based open source advocacy groups (and Richard Stallman) wrote yesterday:

If Oracle is allowed to acquire MySQL, it will predictably limit the development of the functionality and performance of the MySQL software platform, leading to profound harm to those who use MySQL software to power applications.

This seems to be a peculiarly European view. You will note that Stallman personally endorsed this letter, not the Free Software Foundation.

(Correction: One of the groups referenced above, KEI, is based in Geneva, Switzerland, but has a UK office.)

The American view is that there are both closed source and open source alternatives to mySQL, specifically PostgreSQL and Ingres. The European view is that open source must be allowed to grow up, and communities must be allowed to compete directly with the big boys, or competition is not real.

My view remains that, if Europeans feel challenged by this transaction, open source offers them the opportunity to fork mySQL, and to invest as heavily as they need to in order to grow the software into something better. Set a course for the second star to the right and straight on till morning.

Of course, given that this is open source, the chief beneficiary of a European-funded, truly competitive mySQL code base will be Oracle. (Larry Ellison as Tinker Bell?)

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