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MySQL Not Going Closed Source?

MySQL is one of the most popular databases in use today, a popularity that has been driven by the open source community. Some in the community, however, are taking issue with exactly how open MySQL actually is as fears about the future of the open source database grow.

At stake and at issue are the $1 billion dollars Sun has invested in MySQL. As community members question Sun's intentions, MySQL defends its turf.

This week Sun's MySQL division preannounced the release of MySQL 5.1, which is expected to be available in June. The actual release is months behind schedule and follows the last major MySQL release, MySQL 5.0, by two and half years.

MySQL also announced some new features for MySQL 6, currently in Alpha development.

Among the MySQL 6 features are online backup to the database. Some of the online backup features, however, may not end up in the community version of MySQL but instead will only appear in the commercial MySQL Enterprise Edition. (MySQL offers a free community edition and a paid subscription edition.)

It's a move that has prompted some fierce criticism of MySQL on blogs and on open source site Slashdot.org.

The firestorm began in earnest with a blog posting from MySQL consultant Jeremy Cole, who alleged that by offering features only in MySQL Enterprise, MySQL is changing its development model.

"The size of the user base for MySQL Enterprise is much smaller than for MySQL Community," Cole wrote. "That means these critical features will be tested by only a few of their customers. So, in effect, they will be giving their paying customers real, true, untested code."

Cole's sentiments were echoed by others, including MySQL consultant Vadim Tkachenko, who also questioned MySQL's openness.

"A Year ago I remember MySQL Proxy was not available for wide usage, only for enterprise customers. Fortunately, it was changed during last year," Tkachneko blogged.

"Now we see that new features will be available only for Enterprise customers. Why does Sun decide to develop new software under Open Source license, but MySQL decides to take away features developed for next version."

In a series of posts on Slashdot.orgm, Marten Mickos previously CEO of MySQL, now senior vice president at Sun, defended and clarified MySQL's open source commitment and positioning.

MySQL spokesperson Steve Curry confirmed to InternetNews.com that the postings made on Slashdot were in fact made by Marten Mickos.

"Having production add-ons that we provide only to paying customers currently seems to be a useful model," Mickos wrote. "Our partners and customers think it is great. Many users think it is great. But not all do (as evident from this thread on). I would hope we could please all, but I am afraid we cannot."

Mickos also strongly defended MySQL technology release schedule and closed technology components as not having been influenced by Sun. The former MySQL CEO noted that the decisions relating to the MySQL 5.1 and 6.0 releases were developed by MySQL months before being acquired by Sun.

In fact, Mickos noted that Sun actually asked him if the company should open source all of the backup components.

"I will have such a discussion with my colleagues at Sun in the coming months," Mickos wrote.

While inflamed passions are nothing new in the open source community, neither is MySQL making certain components only available to paying customers. 451 Group Analyst Matthew Aslett noted in his analysis on the topic that MySQL has already announced database design tool MySQL Workbench would have components that are not available as open source.

"Before that the company introduced Network Monitoring and Advisory Services with the enterprise version in October 2006," Aslett wrote. "Additionally, MySQL removed the Enterprise tarballs from its community FTP site in August 2007."

MySQL spokesperson Curry noted that MySQL has no intention to close-source or cripple the MySQL server. "As it was with MySQL, under Sun our strategy will be around offering the full-featured MySQL Community database server under the open source GPL license," Curry stated.

"This is designed for the technical, do-it-yourself developer who chooses to spend their own time supporting themselves to save money. And the MySQL enterprise subscription is for corporate customers who are willing to spend a little money for additional services to save time and gain peace of mind."

Curry noted that many decisions still have to be made, and MySQL is open to feedback from customers and community alike. "That said, we are trying to get past the flames of a few vocal minority to have an honest discussion."