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MySQL's Mickos: Strike an Open Source Balance

BOSTON -- Being a successful open source software vendor means striking a balance between community and customers, according to MySQL CEO Marten Mickos.

"They are completely different groups with completely different desires," Mickos said during his LinuxWorld keynote address here this afternoon. "But my belief is you can serve both."

Marten Mickos
Marten Mickos
Source: MySQL AB

That doesn't mean it's easy.

Without a differentiator, such as set-up, support or updates, there's no reason for customers to pay. Charge for the wrong services and community members will abandon you.

"This is a very fine line to walk. To pay salaries to your employees, you need to have a revenue stream, but the power of open source is in the community," said Mickos, noting that open source advocates provide invaluable feedback on everything from buggy code to new features.

This week at LinuxWorld, the Swedish open source database maker made two moves along the community-customer front: a new subscription-based offering; and a certified partner program for the new MySQL Network.

Privately held MySQL has already signed up more than 25 companies to the partner program, including industry heavyweights like HP , Novell and Sun .

Other vendors, including Red Hat with the Fedora Project, and IBM with the Eclipse Foundation, have done similar things to try and master the community-customer dynamic, he noted.

"You can never please everybody ... but you must have a viable model," Mickos said.

LinuxWorld Note of Change

Speaking of pleasing everybody, LinuxWorld Conference & Expo is moving again -- but this time it's a shorter trip.

The show, which is being held here at the Hynes Convention Center this week, will move across town to the new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center next year, because of a need for more space, Mike Sponseller, a spokesman for LinuxWorld organizer IDG World Expo, said.

It will be the third venue in as many years for the event. In 2004, LinuxWorld was held in New York.

Sponseller said this year's show boasts 180 exhibitors, which is 30 more than last year's event. They include heavy hitters such as Red Hat, Novell, IBM and HP.

Official attendance figures aren't yet available, although he estimates the crowd of Linux enthusiasts between 6,000 and 7,000 people. Final, audited numbers will be available in two months.

Next year's show at the sprawling Boston Convention & Exhibition Center will take place from April 3-6.