I’d like to clear up some misconceptions that have appeared in comments on various blogs, social bookmarking, and other fora in response to Monty’s recent call for action. Many of these have been repeated ad infinitum and it’s time to set the record straight.
Monty founded MySQL Ab along with David Axmark. True. He and David then decided they’d like to pay their bills, and so to generate revenue, they decided to seek outside investors. As neither of them is highly experienced with such matters, they hired Mårten Mickos, who became CEO of MySQL Ab. At that point, Monty’s role in day-to-day business decision making dropped to almost zero. If any one person “sold MySQL to Sun,” it was Mårten.
This is not to say Mårten acted against Monty’s express wishes. Monty had great hopes for Sun’s stewardship of MySQL, and only became disillusioned after some time actually working for Sun. Mårten did the job Monty and David hired him to do, and in no way should my sentiments be construed as “blaming” Mårten. But saying it was Monty’s decision to sell to Sun is patently wrong. It was Mårten’s decision in concert with the outside investors he had courted.
2). Monty should live with the consequences of the sale.
Let’s use an analogy here.
Let’s say that Red Hat‘s investors and stockholders approve a deal to sell Red Hat to Google. (And just for fun, let’s assume one of the results is rebranding Red Hat Enterprise Linux as Red Goo. It’s my analogy.)
I think Mark Ewing and Bob Young would probably be satisfied with that decision, especially if it paid them well. This was the case with Monty and the sale of MySQL Ab to Sun.
Now let’s say that after a few years, Google is acquired by Microsoft.
Would Mark and Bob be pleased about the possible prospects for Red Goo? Would you tell them, “This is what happens when you sell a company?” Or would you, quite rightly, start being concerned about the future of one of the most important Linux distributions? And would you feel that Mark and Bob had reason to voice their concerns and try to do the best they could to serve their community of users, developers, and customers?
Even if you thought Microsoft had the best intentions for Red Goo, it doesn’t mean Mark and Bob have to agree with you. Even if you believe that Oracle has the best intentions for MySQL, that doesn’t mean Monty has to agree with you.
3). Monty got PAID! He’s rich, man! He sold MySQL Ab for a BILLION!
Monty has more money than me. He probably has more money than you. But remember, MySQL had investors. MySQL Ab had Mårten. To think Monty received US$1Bn is foolish. To think he received even a tenth of that is a mistake.
Yes, Monty got a payday. But it wasn’t what a lot of people think it was.
4. Monty sold his business, and now he just wants to get it all back for free!
Part one? True. Part two? Not so much.
Monty’s business was sold. He has now started a new business (Monty Program) and employs a lot of the former MySQL coders, as well as strange Free Software wonks (that’s me, for those of you keeping score at home). We all work on MariaDB, a fork of MySQL that does not have a pay-for “Enterprise Edition” and that actively seeks great contributions from the wider open source community.
Let’s say that Oracle buys Sun, and completely trashes MySQL. Who benefits?
MariaDB will immediately become the de facto replacement in most Linux distros and in the minds of most people.
Let’s say Oracle has to sell the MySQL unit as part of the remedy for the EC’s concerns. Monty can’t buy it. As I said, he’s got money, but not that kind of money. And who would get hurt if Oracle sells it or does a great job stewarding the project in the future?
Now, I like getting a paycheck. I want Monty Program to succeed so that my wife and I aren’t eating out of cat food tins at the bus station. But I also like principled people that care, really care, about the projects they love. And that’s why Monty is potentially hurting our business prospects by raising his concerns with the European Commission. He cares about the code he has worked on for 27 years. He cares about the companies that have built a business on that code. And he cares about the users of that code; be they Fortune 50 companies or your teenage brother running WordPress.
Part of me wants to slap Monty. I want our company to become the standard. Now.
Part of me wants to kiss Monty. He’s the kind of dedicated and thoughtful steward any project deserves.
Paul McCullagh discussed this thoughtfully on his blog this week.
5. Anyone can fork. You did. What’s the big deal?
Two words. “Embedded solutions.”
A lot of companies have embedded MySQL into products they sell. They’re not interested in releasing their entire software stack under the GPL. They buy licenses from Sun (and formerly from MySQL Ab) to allow them to embed MySQL into their products and not have to release all their source.
MariaDB, or any other fork, will never be able to offer this. Ever. We forked the GPL version, and so will anyone else. Your code depends on our code and you’re selling it to any interested party? You have to GPL every bit of code you sell.
I said it in my last post, and I’ll say it again. Forking saves the code. It does not save the business.
And as I also said before, and will reiterate, if Oracle is so certain that forks are the answer, why didn’t they just do that months ago and save themselves the headache? They could have forked MySQL, taken MySQL off the table, and avoided this whole EC inquiry. They didn’t. Think about that.
6). Just use Postgres.
Postgres is a great project. It delivers a a fantastic database server. I have a lot of people in the Postgres community I consider friends. So does Monty. And you know what, those people would be among the first to tell you that migrating to or from one database to another is not an easy task for large deployments with thousands of lines of customized code. They’d also tell you that Postgres is superior to MySQL for some things, and MySQL is superior to Postgres for others.
“Just switch to Postgres,” is not a solution for many people, primarily businesses that have built their products on top of MySQL.
Now, can we move beyond these issues to the larger issue at hand? If you think Oracle’s proposed acquisition of MySQL is probably going to turn out badly for the Free Software and open source communities, read Monty’s blog post and act. If you think it’s a tempest in a teacup, I respect your right to your opinion. Please respect Monty’s right, and if you wish to engage people on the subject, keep the preceding points in mind.