“It’s Not Dead, It’s Just Resting!” a.k.a., MySQL, Ethics and Death

Jul 9, 2008 / By Sheeri Cabral

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In http://www.mysqlperformanceblog.com/2008/07/01/should-we-proclaim-mysql-community-edition-dead/, Peter Zaitsev wonders if MySQL’s community edition is dead.

The title of Peter’s inquiry is somewhat misleading, as the database itself works fine. He clarifies a bit with, “there suppose to be 2 yearly binary releases (which are overdue) and 4 predictable yearly source releases, which we have not seen either.” I thought it was clear that “2 per year” doesn’t mean “one every six months”. It’s been eight months, sure. And I don’t actually believe that MySQL is going to have one source release per month until November, to make up for the lack of source releases. However, it’s certainly possible, if not probable.

The fact remains, however, that if you’re just looking for stable, recent, binary MySQL Community release, you might not find it. MySQL offers two out of three — stable and binary Community releases. Not recent, but I think it’s okay to charge for the most up-to-date version. In my experience only about half of the production environments out there have switched to 5.0, and many are running 4.1 and 4.0 still.

At the low end, a license costs just under USD$600. The requirement to buy a license to get the most recent version is a mere inconvenience, not a business-stopper. It’s not like MySQL is forcing everyone to run on version 3.23 unless they pay $10,000 per license. Charging a modest amount for the most up-to-date version is not a bad thing.

It would be nice to have been aware of that ahead of time, but MySQL as a company has not been so great at organizing and having all its ducks in a row. In fact this is where I hope Sun can really help MySQL out, as it has a reputation (a deserved one, in my experience) of being more highly organized.

Have you heard of Hanlon’s razor? “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

Applied here, Hanlon’s razor suggests that MySQL is not intentionally doing this. If they were, they would not have promised two binary and four source releases each calendar year. And to be fair, I don’t think it’s actually stupidity, just a sign of overcommitment.

I can only imagine that there has been tons of overhead for MySQL employees in the last five-odd months, since the acquisition was announced. From my reading of Planet MySQL, I have seen that MySQL employees have had to take a lot of trips (frequently with only a week or two of notice) to speak at summits and conferences, often outside of their own countries. This leaves little time for development, or organization of development.

I am sure that, with some inside knowledge, we could all point to things that MySQL does as a company that might be a little (or a lot) unethical. I do not have that knowledge, and I do not like to make conclusions about the ethics of a company based only on outcomes.

Many of us in the community are frustrated because we are told one thing and the outcome is another. The way I see it, the company is having an awkward adolescence, and I am sure it is just as frustrating for developers and marketing folks alike to have a plan and then deviate from it. Change is inevitable, and any project manager will tell you that no plan works exactly according to spec.

Maybe folks like Peter are too quick to accuse; perhaps ones like me are too quick to forgive and understand. Time will tell. I hope MySQL will not disappoint, and I do not believe they have that intention. If they disappoint their customers, there’s nobody left!

6 Responses to ““It’s Not Dead, It’s Just Resting!” a.k.a., MySQL, Ethics and Death”

  • Arjen Lentz says:

    License? It’s all GPL.
    You mean support subscription (which entitles you to the Enterprise builds directly rather than having to go via mirror.provenscaling.com)
    It’s definitely not about licensing!

  • Ingrid Voigt says:

    It’s only GPL if your application is open source. Otherwise, you need at least the cheapest commercial license (which, incidentally, comes with a bit of support).

  • Sheeri Cabral says:

    I appreciate the clarifications; I’m interested in how folks feel about the rest of the article and the points made.

  • Gerry says:

    Since I used to work for MySQL, I have my own opinion. I didn’t work in the Engineering department, but the question of the frequency of Community releases was a subject of occasional conversations where I expressed my opinion. The way I see it, it is a question of resources. Putting together a build or a tarball is not a trivial task for a piece of sofware as big and complex as MySQL has become. The package of source files has to be consistent with the patches and improvements that have been made since the previous publications, a task that takes some time to do. Since the same team prepares the Enterprise and beta releases, under the pressure to release 5.1, is likely to be overwhelmed and the Community releases are not done.  Where I believe Sun can help is providing the necessary resources to have at least one person dedicated to mantain and build the Community version and dedicate whatever free time this person might have, to help on the other tasks … not the other way around (the regular build team wait for available time to prepare the Community releases). My $.02

  • Steve says:

    It is not “only GPL if your application is open source.” That is simply not correct. Read the license, ask a lawyer. There is no such provision.

  • “Putting together a build or a tarball is not a trivial task for a piece of sofware as big and complex as MySQL has become.”

    One the most attractive sides of MySQL for me was always simplicity. Looks like it becomes less relevant these days which is rather unfortunate, IMHO.

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