Home > datacenter, MySQL > The Sky is Falling! MySQL charging for features!

The Sky is Falling! MySQL charging for features!

April 16, 2008

There’s quite a bit of buzz on the blogosphere from people I respect a great deal, like Jeremy Cole at Proven Scaling and Vadim at Percona, about MySQL’s new Enterprise backup plans.  

The big deal?  They’re releasing a Community version that doesn’t have all the same features as the Enterprise version of Online Backup, including compression and encryption.  The Community version is open-sourced under GPL, the Enterprise version is not.

Personally, I think this is awesome. Don’t get me wrong – I love open source.  We couldn’t have built our business without it, and we love it when we get a chance to contribute back to the community.

But let’s not forget that MySQL is a business.  And that business helps the community and improves the software.  They have customers (I’m one – we’re a paying MySQL Enterprise Platinum customer), and they have to solve those customers’ problems.  This is a virtuous cycle where the community benefits directly as MySQL thrives financially.  

Every time a business like us pays MySQL for a service or feature, MySQL can then invest in better software that benefits all.  The end result in MySQL’s case is more GPL’d code.   In a very real way, without companies like mine, there wouldn’t be a new backup tool at all – let alone the differences this debate is focused on.

Every day, I hear someone saying “Man, I love SmugMug so much!  It has [insert features here] which I love!  Why isn’t it free?”

The answer?  “It wouldn’t be SmugMug if it was free.”  MySQL’s situation is very similar.

I wish more open source projects would make it easier for this cycle to ignite.  Some of them, like Red Hat, refuse to even take our money.  Talk about stupid.  There are *lots* of businesses out there willing to pay for extra services and features, and the community can harness that revenue in amazing ways, including getting more (or better) GPL’d code.

Couple more thoughts:

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if future releases add new Enterprise-only features and some existing Enterprise-only features migrate down to Community.
  • The Community version is open-sourced, so I’m sure the community will develop their own compression and encryption features.
  • This is really no different from Enterprise Monitor, which has been only for Enterprise customers for awhile.
  • Lots of other projects do this (and I would argue this benefits those projects and their communities, too)
  • I’m 99% sure that this was the plan before Sun acquired MySQL.
In short, I view this as one of the ways we can both build our business and give back to the open source community.  Keep it up, MySQL!
  1. April 16, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I couldn’t agree more, good writeup!

  2. April 16, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I think people get scared when the game changes as you never know if everything will go to shit. Look at firefox.. It always made money through the searchbox and since it has *always* done that people seem to care less. But I’ll bet if FF finds some new way to make money people will start looking for their pitchforks.

  3. April 16, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    For the record I want MySQL to make a TON of cash.

    However, in my experience (ironically) the proprietary code I pay for is a LOT less stable and reliable than Open Source.

    SmugMug in this case is more of a web service and easier to charge for (similar to Spinn3r).

    MySQL is about code…. I’m not really going to trust my company to code that I can’t audit and fix and that hasn’t been tested.

    There’s a reason Open Source works and it’s not always about money.


  4. April 16, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Sorry, but you are not making the least bit of sense. The point is that there is no real “community” version. There are two versions maintained by one company. So if the community does implement a feature only available in the Enterprise Edition atm, then there is no way for the community to force that feature in.

    The only option is to start a fork, that however is not really feasible either, since we would end up with all sorts of forks and patches flying around, that would get little QA (especially not when multiple of those patches get applied). So I guess the only way out is for the community to do a proper fork where the community pools its ressources. This will inevitably lead to incompatibilities with what the Sun/MySQL guys are doing. This would not be a “good” fork in the sense that its an opportunity, it would just lead to redundant efforts that are incompatible with eachother. That being said, it cannot be in the interest of Sun/MySQL to get to this point. And honestly if MySQL insists on going down this path, I would assume that as PostgreSQL keeps going at its current pace, while MySQL splits its development (and QA ressources) across two products, sooner or later hackers and users will start migrating over there.

  5. Cor
    April 17, 2008 at 1:48 am

    I am very happy that MySQL is going to add features to the Enterprise version and not to the community version. I believe that eventually those features will make it to the community version as well, at which time the paying enterprise customers will have thoroughly alpha tested it for all of us 🙂

  6. April 20, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    The problem is not, that they try to get commercial features. The Problem is a licensing problem. Those features cant accept patches and most likely the license will not be GPL compatible.

  7. Tao Shen
    May 26, 2008 at 3:09 am

    Hey Don:

    Nice post. I have been against this since the beginning. Some people say it’s Sun’s fault that they wanted more ways to generate revenue. But the enterprise edition was created before Sun’s acquisition, and the culprit was “enterprise edition” which hid the newest versions from community edition, which is pushing it for GPL.

    I have posted on the Xen board too regarding the Xen Server “Express”, “Standard”, and “enterprise” editions. Basically the same model. I doubt that model will ultimately work for Open Source.

    Some people say that you could switch to PostgreSQL. I disagree because PostgreSQL is doing the same things as what MySQL just started doing. It is called “EnterpriseDB” and “Greenplum”. Another way to look at it is that MySQL started a commercial fork of MySQL within the walls of MySQL AB(SUN) and named it MySQL Enterprise. For that they “control” when and how the feature gets diluted into the community to maximize the revenue for each new feature they develop. For that, they will pay a hefty intangible price. Jon Schwartz better wake up before the revenue stream dries up because people seems other “open source” solutions and thus no longer need “support”.

  8. November 6, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Love it! You got me so excited to get one and start shooting video!

  1. April 17, 2008 at 9:40 am
  2. April 18, 2008 at 2:29 am
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