Concerned about the anti-competitive impact of Oracle's acquiring MySQL as part of the Sun takeover, European Union (EU) regulators have held up the stop sign on the merger while they investigate the matter. EU regulators tend to come down forcefully on any perceived indiscretions in mergers and acquisitions, so Oracle knows that this isn't something to wish away and is scrambling for damage control, including a series of commitments aimed at MySQL customers and developers. Chances are, Oracle will prevail and the EU will approve the merger.But Widenius is not buying Oracle's promises nor keeping still. He has established a Web site to round up supporters, and is striving to press not just the EU but also other governments. His case against Oracle is as follows:
MySQL is a keen competitor to Oracle, especially in web databases, and Oracle is losing about $1 billion of sales to MySQL yearly. The open source community has helped MySQL rise from humble beginnings to enterprise-level stature, and it keeps getting better. Oracle has nothing to gain and a lot to lose by nurturing and promoting MySQL. Unlike Sun -- which did not have any competing database to sell, and was far more committed to Open Source -- Oracle has a different agenda. In fact, getting control of MySQL is one of the primary motivations behind acquiring Sun... and Oracle's intent in controlling MySQL is to eventually kill it.
How? Well, MySQL comes in two flavors: open source (free) and commercial. Anybody interested in enhancing MySQL (or embedding it into other products) has the option to use either of the two models: if you are open-sourcing your enhancement, you use the open-source version; if you want to charge for your enhancement, you get the commercial license. This dual-licensing strategy (which was implemented by MySQL well before Sun acquired it), together with the fact that MySQL is not a community product (e.g. Linux) but is owned and managed by a single entity (currently Sun), has contributed to much of the MySQL's success. If Oracle purchases MySQL, would Oracle maintain this dual-licensing policy as rigorously? What if Oracle decided to stop any further investments in the open source version -- at least, investments that help MySQL grow and support the worldwide MySQL community -- and developed the product commercially only? (To the dismay of the open source community, Oracle already owns InnoDB, arguably the most popular database engine bundled with MySQL.) What if Oracle were to fold MySQL altogether (but not before using some useful pieces of it in/around the Oracle database)?
These concerns are not unfounded, but there are factors that raise questions about Widenius' involvement. For example:
- After creating MySQL, Widenius and his colleagues brought in investors (in essence, made some money) and then made more money when MySQL was sold to Sun. There is a lack of consistency in this level of capitalism about MySQL followed (after banking the money) by principled concerns about the product. After all, capitalism is a double-edged sword.
- Widenius is concerned that it won't be easy to "fork" the open source version of MySQL, and if forked, it would struggle to survive without a big company (or investor) behind it. Yet, Widenius has himself forked MySQL into a competing database product called MariaDB and which he labels as "an enhanced drop-in replacement of MySQL". ; while MariaDB is currently only available under GPL, what's to prevent Widenius and his team from following the MySQL dual-licensing path and growing the product into another MySQL (especially given Widenius' contacts and credibility)?
So, should you be concerned, and what should you do about it?
For all this circus, Widenius is no crank. He has proven credentials and a strong international following, and he has a good point. You might not concur with his doomsday conclusions or his sense of urgency (or even the purity of his principles), but don't let that divert you from his message. The big danger, as Widenius points out, is not that Oracle will slam the lid on MySQL loudly and in haste; it is that Oracle will (slowly and subtly) let MySQL lose momentum and wither away over the years. If MySQL is part of your current and future plans, this is indeed cause for concern that you can/should share with Oracle (via your contacts in sales, development, support etc). If you feel even more strongly, of course, you could sign up and/or show your support in ways suggested by Widenius -- check out his Web site at www.helpmysql.org.
And stay tuned for more.MySQL founder Michael "Monty" Widenius is spearheading an energetic attempt to stall Oracle's acquisition of Sun. His concern is that once Oracle buys Sun, it will decimate MySQL. Should we be worried?