The Future of MySQL (EU Crunch Time)

You’ve probably seen Monty’s post Help Saving MySQL. This is about

  1. Development (will Oracle put significant effort into MySQL, actually innovating)
  2. Brand (“MySQL” has a huge footprint), the trademark owner can enforce this – there have already been issues with companies offering MySQL related services via Google AdWords not being able to use the word MySQL in their ad text even though it was correctly used as an adjective.
  3. Forking is fine, but still has to deal with the branding. For MySQL, that’s possibly the most significant issue of any OSS product ever encountered. You’re not competing against a company, but against an existing brand footprint that you (because of the trademark) have to steer clear of. So “just fork it” is not an easy or short term option, there’s more involved than technical/development work.
  4. Code IP – to some degree (IMHO less important), it’s the thing that enables dual licensing. I regard dual licensing as a pest that’s best got rid of.

The really important thing to realise is that this is not about “killing Sun to save MySQL”, or “sending the right message to investors”. The former is merely a consequence of Oracle’s unwillingness to discuss any other option (whether rightfully or not, that’s just a fact) and the latter has no direct bearing on what’s right for either MySQL or Oracle – it’s definitely a factor that the investor world may consider, but it wouldn’t be a consideration for the EU.

With all that noted… please look at Monty’s post, he provides options and links to for you to action whichever way forward you feel is appropriate, whether for or against or neutral towards Oracle being able to take over Sun with MySQL in unmodified fashion. I think it’s good for more users (essentially interested parties) to express their opinion, since Oracle has managed to mobilise its own customers to flood the EU with their angle. While valid, the result ends up being a tad one-sided!

As I wrote on my comment/update on the Possible Movement in the Oracle/Sun/MySQL/EU Case, it’s unfortunate that the rumour suggesting that Oracle was willing to have MySQL as a separate business entity turned out to not be true, as I reckon it would have been a useful outcome for both Oracle and MySQL. A company can’t/won’t disrupt itself, and there are serious business-related “conflicts” to deal with if a single company sells both both products. Corporate structures and sales will always make decisions to steer away from competing with itself, and generally choose the most profitable road. Which one of the two that is in this case is not relevant, my take is that in the market both Oracle and MySQL have their place, so having either one lose out would not be good.

Irrespective of good intentions, companies do abide by certain rules – well actually many companies are ignorant of them and waste tons of money essentially trying to defy gravity. In any case, for me the issue is not with Oracle having good intentions or mistrusting that, the issue is that not even Oracle can defy gravity. The effort will go where the money is.

Remember what I quoted long ago about IBM and the PC? (Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen), IBM planted the new department in another state with its own management and finances, because they knew that in the corporate/management decisions, inevitably the existing mainframe business would win and thus prevent any cannibalisation (from within) of its position. In a nutshell, a company can’t disrupt itself. It’s well documented. I think that overall, the Oracle/Sun deal is a good match. But also, I think MySQL needs to be handled properly to make sure that both MySQL and Oracle (the db product) will thrive in the future. I feel that’s what’s important.

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