MySQL shies away from GPLv3, free version

How do you make money from free software? One way is to make an "Enterprise" version that you charge for, make the free version harder to find and use, and start using scary words like "indemnity". Will MySQL's new strategy bring in the bucks for its investors, alienate its free software supporters, or both?
Written by Ed Burnette, Contributor

Peter Zaitsev reported recently that new versions of MySQL Community edition are no longer available for download from the MySQL Download Area. This provoked a storm of speculation that MySQL was abandoning its free software roots, talk of a fork, calls to abandon MySQL in favor of PostgreSQL, and other extreme reactions. It turns out the sources are still available if you know where to look, on the MYSQL FTP Site.

However it's clear that folks wanting a turn-key solution are increasingly going to be directed to the MySQL Enterprise version. MySQL charges up to $4,995 per server per year for this edition of the free software database. That's the same price Oracle charges for a "Standard Edition One" 2-CPU license, except that the Oracle license is perpetual (not yearly).

The company also announced it was dropping the "or later" clause in its GPL license so that it won't be forced to automatically upgrade to GPLv3 when the FSF comes out with the new license later this year. Since the MySQL company holds the copyright on all its code, it can change the license however it wishes.

I decided to contact the company to find out more about these changes. The response was a little on the light side but here's what I was able to find out:

ZDNet: What's the relationship between the community and enterprise versions of MySQL? Are they built from the exact same source code?

MySQL: MySQL publishes all its code under the GPL license. The Community and the Enterprise versions are built from the same code, but the Community Edition will include some of the most recent features and minor experimental enhancements submitted via the community, whereas the Enterprise version focuses on stability.

ZDNet: Given that Enterprise customers generally want less frequent, more stable releases, what's the rationale in doing more frequent binary releases of the enterprise version as compared to the community ("do it yourself") version?

MySQL: For paying customers, MySQL commits to releasing updates monthly and quarterly service packs. For the community there is no set schedule; it depends on what enhancements are contributed by the community.

ZDNet: Can you briefly describe the new Network Monitoring and Advisory Services?

MySQL: The monitoring & advisory service is an add-on capability to MySQL's paying subscription customers and it runs on their premises. We provide the source code to that to customers.

ZDNet: Can you briefly describe the Indemnification option that you list for Enterprise Gold and Platinum users?

MySQL: Indemnification is available to provide protection against IP infringement such as trademark, patent and copyright concerns.  Since MySQL has written all of the code in the server, we stand behind it.

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