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The Sky is Falling! MySQL charging for features!

April 16, 2008 10 comments

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!
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