Sun's MySQL fork survival theory ripped
GPL does code, not 'brand'
If Oracle screws up MySQL, the community will fork and the database will live on under another name - leaving Oracle high and dry.
At least that's the open-source theory. And it's a theory Sun Microsystems' executives past and present have recited to placate those concerned by the prospect Oracle, the number-one database vendor, could end up owning the industry's leading open-source database.
Now, those who helped nudge the European Union (EU) to investigate Oracle's $5.6bn purchase have moved to deflate the argument in a campaign to present their case against ownership.
The crux of the argument is that, yes, you can fork a GPL project - such as MySQL - but the fork is not viable. That's because while you can duplicate the code, you cannot easily duplicate the ecosystem around it or the brand itself that have taken years to build.
"A fork vendor would not get the value from the brand," Florian Mueller said during an all-too-short gathering of press and investors in San Francisco, California on Monday. Muller is a former adviser to MySQL who wrote a positioning paper that helped convince the EU to investigate Oracle's planned deal
"The value of the brand is huge - that's why the valuation is so great. MariaDB [the MySQL fork created by founder Monty Widenius] - it would take a long while to get there."
Mueller claimed the fork would struggle because it couldn't attract the same level of interest from partners as the main MySQL product and the revenue wouldn't flow as a result.
Referring to the EU-probe of Oracle's potential ownership of MySQL, Mueller said: "Regulators care about effective competition."
Also, Mueller claimed, Oracle will control MySQL's intellectual property rights. That's a problem, because Oracle would be able to decide where and how to develop MySQL - and Oracle has a conflict of interest.
Many were puzzled by the EU's decision to investigate the deal, given Oracle's known in the RDBMS world and MySQL made its name as an embedded and web database.
According to Mueller, however, MySQL has been on a trajectory from the low end of computing to the enterprise with the addition of features - particularly with version 5.1 that added procedures, triggers views - and that has taken it into direct competition with Oracle. He claimed unnamed Oracle customers have dumped their existing database for MySQL.
At Oracle's OpenWorld conference in San Francisco this month, Sun chairman Scott McNealy said he didn't understand the EU investigation because MySQL didn't compete.
Mueller was unable say how many Oracle customers had switched to MySQL. But to prove his point, Muller cited an internal Sun project called Peter to get Oracle database customers to switch to MySQL. You can see Sun's Project Peter presentation here.
With this in mind, MySQL's future could not be guaranteed, as Oracle could - again - decide to develop the database in ways to protect the core Oracle database business.
"This could not continue under Oracle," he said of MySQL's growth from the low- to high-end database. "Nobody cannibalizes himself... you need different businesses," Muller said. "MySQL stared at the low end with people belittling its functionality - as something not real men would use in programming.
"MySQL is not nearly where it could be," he said of the database today. "The question is what will Oracle do - MySQL competes across the broad."
He also told press and analysis that MySQL independent of Oracle creates price competition and lowers the cost of switching databases.
"From a regulators point of view, it's worth sustaining a price maverick - someone who behaves much more aggressively than another. And that's important in the database market because of the high switching cost," Muller said. ®
re: re: re: Re: Mueller knows nothing about the Oracle market
> and that seasoned Oracle shops would never migrate because the short-term pain would be overwhelming
I don't think it's the short-term pain at all but long-term risk versus cost. if you're running Oracle then MySQL is an unknown quantity (and one without a very good reputation). The cost of data management is not the cost of one RDBMS program versus another, but the overall cost. Oracle software can be bloody expensive, but if you factor in the hardware and the annual personnel budget to manage it then you realise it's not such a large part. Also, if you are a multi-hundred-million pound company then sod the cost, your data is worth more.
And I'm ignoring the question of whether MySQL will run as nicely on those 16 processor servers as did your now-displaced Oracle.
> and aren't one of CKM's start-ups who naturally go for Oracle
I don't think he was really saying that, but it is a matter of cost/benefit. The high cost of a competent database can pay itself back very rapidly under the right circumstances. It can be worth splashing out on the big stuff because the big stuff can do straight off what might otherwise take a much more expensive programming effort on top (and it can usually do it much more reliably).
> If Oracle remove MySQL as a viable choice, they have negatively affected the competitive landscape
true. I suspect that as someone above suggested, it would be rolled into a high profile project like Apache. It's a good suggestion anyway.
What frustrates me is when people start treating RDBMS's as commodities; equivalent and interchangeable. Beyond using them in the most trivial way, they are not! There is a reason why Oracle/MSSQL is expensive. They can be extremely reliable, handle huge loads, scale well and be very low in bugs compared to almost any other software I've used. *If* you use them to their full extent, the gap between low-end and high-end dbs becomes very evident indeed. But they often aren't so they look like cost rather than value.
So I guess to some extent we were talking at cross purposes and I apologise for my offensive comment; it was entirely out of order.
re: re: Re: Mueller knows nothing about the Oracle market
Here's what I was saying...
Müller may not be right about Oracle shops migrating to MySQL, although he claims to have evidence, but he doesn't have to confine his analysis to that particular area: it's about the choice available in the entire market.
You can argue that MySQL is inadequate and that seasoned Oracle shops would never migrate because the short-term pain would be overwhelming, or that PostgreSQL/EnterpriseDB would be more of a competitor to Oracle in those shops, but the market for database products isn't static: the authorities have to consider what new customers have to choose from.
If you're a company going to manage a lot of data (and aren't one of CKM's start-ups who naturally go for Oracle, and who must have found a lucrative niche to fend off that Graham-style critique about blowing huge sums of capital on expensive furniture... and RDBMSs), then it's possible you'd consider MySQL as something you might work with (as Google and others have done for stuff, and I doubt that it's only used for Sergey and Larry's personal car cleaning roster). If Oracle remove MySQL as a viable choice, they have negatively affected the competitive landscape, whether you, I or anyone else would laugh at those people choosing it.
I suppose the title of the original comment says it all: "the Oracle market". But as I wrote, it's not really about "the Oracle market" at all. Thus, the original comment was wide of the mark. Apologies if I came across as harsh towards your counter-critique, but you weren't responding to a dyed-in-the-wool long-time MySQL devotee after all.
re: re: Re: Mueller knows nothing about the Oracle market
Okay, maybe I misinterpreted it and maybe an apology is in order. In simple terms, what were you saying?
(What CKM said is clear and makes sense)