Did Sun just make mySQL closed source?

Did Sun just make mySQL closed source?

Summary: You have two alternate spins on the same set of facts. Free users are getting stable code, or the principles of open source are being denied.


mySQL logoSun's happy talk at its mySQL shindig this week masked a grimmer reality.

In the future cool new features of mySQL (like online backup) will, when written by Sun, first go only to paying customers.

This does not, as some have said, make mySQL Enterprise closed source. The code split between mySQL Community and mySQL Enterprise happened back in August, before Sun entered the picture.

Still some of the company's open source competitors, most notably Ingres, saw disquiet as a chance to pounce like Mark Penn on a YouTube video.

"MySQL is moving away from true open source towards a proprietary model by not providing the same features in its community version," said an Ingres press statement.

"MySQL will lose feedback and contributions on its products from a large group of users in the community. Costs will go up and quality will go down." Ingres executives stood ready to elaborate.


Fact is mySQL has been dealing with this issue for quite a while. As its VP-Community, Kaj Arno, blogged last year, the issue is stability. "Having a stable release which gets new features is like squaring the circle. It’s not doable in Euclidean geometry."

So there you have two alternate spins on the same set of facts. Free users are getting stable code, or the principles of open source are being denied.

It is, as Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz himself blogged on Monday, Freedom's Choice. And any users who don't like the choice are free to leave.

Topics: Software, Data Centers, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Open Source, Oracle

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  • Free users are getting stable code

    what kind of coment is that ?

    Supposed to imply that the open source edition is the best one, while the enterprise edition is bloated with un industrialized new features ? In what kind of world are you leaving were paying industrial customer are using ustable version, while geeks developping at home, or small penny less startup are concemned to use the super stable edition ?

    The two license business model sipmply does not work that way. You offer a low end open source product and a high end commercial product. The concept simply goes further and further. I can even predict that some future features will be based on fully proprietary code that won't ever reach the community edition. The ecosystem is full of that
  • If they want to sell it,

    they'd have to rewrite it themselves in a clean-room. If a derivative contains any GPL'd code, they can't release it other than free of charge, with the original licence still attached.
    If on the other hand the "enterprise" edition came to Sun under some other non-GPL licence, then they could make it closed source. So, we need to know whether the two editions do differ in their licensing, as acquired by Sun?
    • So very not true in this case.

      MySQL AB, like Sun, had a policy of only accepting code contributions with Copyright reassignment.

      This means that Sun, like MySQL AB before them, owns the copyright on [u]all[/u] of MySQL, at least their version.

      This is how MySQL AB sold, and Sun sells, licenses for MySQL to be used in proprietary software by other developers. They own the code.

      It's also why PostgreSQL, even with its BSD license, has a much more active community.
      • Thanks, odubtaig.

        I've used mysql for a long time, and been under the misunderstanding that it was GPL. I now see that it isn't. I might switch to PostgreSQL in future.
        • Actually it is GPL, but MySQL holds Copyright

          In fact MySQL is GPL'd code, but the copyright is held by
          MySQL AB. What this means is that MySQL can be released
          both as GPL code and as closed source.

          If you modified MySQL and wanted to see those
          modifications make it into the official version, you would
          need to assign the copyright to those changes over to
          MySQL, or your changes would not be part of the official
          shipping version.

          This is exactly what the author of CUPS required, and how
          he was able to take a job at Apple computer, bringing
          CUPS in-house with him.
          • Thats interesting - it remains free.

            The good thing about the GPL is that no-one can stop the software from being freely copied, modified, and distributed. This ought to mean that the community can fork and enhance it if they didn't like what Sun were doing with it. If this is the case, it would dispel the original concern.
          • It is.

            Although Sun could close off future development (and their track record makes this unlikely), any code that has been released under the GPL is out there for good. So yes, it could be forked.

            The thing that kills the community is that, unless it's forked Sun owns all your copyright. The beauty of the GPL is that, even though you're contributing code, it's still your code and you can reuse it anywhere you want. The moment you sign over the copyright, it's not your code anymore.
  • Thash fine by me.

    Some linux distributors pay for MySQL and so get all the updates. Some even pass them on for free, as allowed under the GPL.

    It's just a bit like using CentOS instead of RHEL.
  • MySQL Exec Blog

    Sun/MySQL's Zack Urlocker blogs adds further clarification here:

  • RE: Did Sun just make mySQL closed source?


    Not sure why you are editorializing so strongly in defense
    of Sun's position. What Sun is doing is completely legal,
    but certainly falls out of the spirit of "open source"
    insomuch as code that will be distributed will not be freely
    available for review, modification and re-distribution.

    Moreover, Kaj's position that Sun's doing this to provide
    stable code seems nothign more than PR spin given
    MySQL CEO Marten Miklos' statement that says it's about
    money. In a reply to MySQL community leader Jeremy Cole,
    Miklos said "We also have an ambition (and always had) of
    ensuring that there is a viable revenue-generating
    business around MySQL".

    Sun's PR efforts asking people 'not to look behind the
    curtain' on this deal have been amazing, and worthy of

    But given that your beat is Linux and Open Source, this is a
    clear an example of a business model change that raises
    questions of viability for others exploring GPL based
    business models. MySQL chose GPL and not BSD for
    license terms, and was a company that embraced GPLv3
    even when Linus Torvalds stood with v2. There is no way
    to look at this as anything other than a serious course
    change by a GPL company.

    Don't spackle over this - please take a look at how this is
    possible (copyright assignment) and how it fits (or doesn't)
    with the spirit of GPL Open Source.
    • The Copyright assignment is the problem itself.

      I do wonder if some companies just want free labour. It's not even been brought up that this has allowed them to sell MySQL for 'embedding' from the start. By 'embedding', they mean licensing the code for inclusion in closed-source software.

      OK, so it's fine if people don't mind giving up all the rights to their own code, sometimes they use a product and want to see an improvement included for everyone even if at personal cost.

      But, as observed, it's not really in the spirit and, consequently, it doesn't really work as well which is why OpenOffice.org isn't so great (too large, too complex and too offputting with the Copyright reassignment) and why PostgreSQL has a greater community and is growing in popularity, despite its BSD license (it's certainly getting more support from many database based projects these days).
      • Postgre is getting more aggressive...

        I'm getting more press releases from Postgre and Ingres these days. I didn't know how their new market aggressiveness was being reflected in the marketplace.


        I think the problem here might be that Sun is running a GPL licensed company like a BSD licensed one.
        • I've mostly seen it in the web package place.

          Both the latest versions of Joomla and Drupal come with at least some PostgreSQL support where there was none before and I'm seeing more support for it from hosting companies. I don't have much reason for contact with databases outside this context, although I'm seeing glimpses of it here and there, including someone I know moving jobs and moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar (and not knowing about pgAdmin).

          I think it's partially because PostgreSQL has finally come of age in the speed stakes. Remember when MySQL was all about the processing speed and PostgreSQL was all about the features? At some point they reached roughly the same stage in both stakes and since then MySQL, for one, has lost its advantage in the basic markets that don't require a huge amount of features. Now, of course, MySQL has even managed to beat PostgreSQL on some features but the reverse is also true. It's more about what exactly you're needing now.
        • Ah yes, and licensing.

          It's not even that Sun are trying to run a GPL project like a BSD project; at least with the BSD license all contributors are on equal terms. Sure, someone else can use my code in their proprietary project but I can do the same with anyone else's code and I'm certainly not giving up any right to use my own code however I please, including contributing it to GPL projects or releasing closed code without any attributions (so long as it is only my code).

          The way Sun are doing things, it's one rule for them and another for everyone else. Once you submit your code, the only place you can use even your own code is with a GPL license, whereas Sun can do as they please.

          An interview with a Sun employee brought up the problem that the OO.org code is so monolithic and complex that it discourages the kind of 'drive-by' fixes that more modular projects enjoy as it takes a good deal of effort just to understand what's what. In the article that covered this though (I think it was in Linux Format) it was also discussed that the copyright reassignment put off a lot of people who might otherwise invest more time in improving OO.org. After all, why would anyone invest their free time in such a project then sign away all rights to their own work?
  • RE: Did Sun just make mySQL closed source?

    This sounds like when they split off OpenOffice from Star Office. As long as there is an open mySQL out there it will evolve and grow.
  • The best of both worlds, just maybe...

    As long as Sun keep the main stuff open, it's just fine if they want to add new features on top, and make money with from it.

    In the long run, we'll all benefit from it by having a healty Sun company that will be able to afford keeping the main mySQL code open, and even better, the new features Sun will add to mySQL as commercial options will help keep the overall technology on its edge.

    What I'm affraid however is how Sun will react when open source coders will try to emulate (and mabye even improve) what Sun already sells for a profit...

    If Sun is aware of, and open to, even that possibility and if they see this as an opportunity to stay on the edge as a corporation, then why not. We'll have the best of both worlds...
  • PostgreSQL

    Then, it looks like I'll be moving my projects over to PostgreSQL.
    • Ingres is Open Source!???

      I've used Ingres many years ago. Fast, quick, secure. I loved it. I thought Oracle killed it.

      Ingres should be better than MySQL and Postgres as it was designed and developed as an enterprise database, whereas they grew up from who knows where.

      Hey! I'm giving Ingres a go! Whoo Hoo!
      I am Gorby
  • RE: Did Sun just make mySQL closed source?

    SUN wants to deal with MySQL like a small open source companies would: offering a few proprietary components on top of the platform. This is so wrong: not only does it piss off the community but it doesn't bring the company anywhere near a solution that would leverage the long tail of MySQL adopters. How could you invest $1B in a company and subsequently foster such petty thoughts? Time to think differently.