Open Source Community Has Mixed Feelings on Sun, MySQL Deal

Lora Bentley

So far the reaction to Sun Microsystems' acquisition of MySQL AB has been mixed. Sun's Chief Open Source Officer, Simon Phipps, thinks it's great, of course. In a Computerworld piece, Phipps says:

I've yet to find anybody who loses because of this deal. Some [critics] will say its subtractive, but it isn't. It's an additive move. I've heard some people say that maybe we're going to force people to use Solaris, but that would be a crazy thing for us to do. MySQL is in safe hands.

On the other hand, the idea that Sun would "force people to use Solaris" apparently wasn't just pulled out of thin air. They have used similar tactics in the past. Also quoted in the Computerworld article, The Kusnetsky Group principal Dan Kusnetsky notes:

If Sun uses this strategy with MySQL, there are a significant number of open-source database competitors, PostgreSQL for instance, that customers can migrate to. If they [force a migration to Solaris] with MySQL, Sun will gain a great deal of ill will from this community and probably lose customers for MySQL.

Pund-IT principal analyst Charles King likens a proprietary company's purchase of an open source company with a community behind it to "buying an historic home in a small town." He says:

You may think that you own it, but a lot of people in the neighborhood have a very strong attachment or even a deeper attachment than you do.

It seems that everything depends on what Sun does with MySQL. Illuminata's Gordon Haff, for one, doesn't see a problem:

To the degree that there will be increasing [economic and sales] resources to MySQL ... in that sense, I think it's good for the MySQL community. I think it's fairly clear that [MySQL] wasn't a company that was rolling in dough, and I think that becoming a part of Sun opens a lot of opportunities ... that could really help the project.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 18, 2008 8:53 PM Christopher Browne Christopher Browne  says:
The Pentaho project (which produces open source "Business Intelligence" tools) has suggested an interesting "Beekeeper model" analogy to characterize how open source communities exist, which seems pretty relevant: http://wiki.pentaho.org/display/BEEKEEPER/3.+The+Beekeeper+ModelSome of the points are pretty relevant:- A beekeeper (OSS-incubating organization) needs to provide an environment that attracts and encourages the bees (OSS software developers) to "do their thing," which is to produce honey"Attractive" doesn't necessarily involve throwing money at the hive.- Organizational stability tends to be very important; a hive in turmoil doesn't produce much honey, and a group of developers that see things being unstable won't produce much useful code. - The bees are free to leave and join a different hive, should the present one lose its attraction. In the same way, OSS projects can and do migrate and fork, and this frequently happens when the "beekeepers" make mistakes that undermine organizational stability.- The beekeeper has very little direct control over the bees. This is certainly true for many OSS projects; developers work on whatever things *they* perceive as useful.In the case of MySQL, pretty much all of the developers *are* employees that *are* under reasonably tight control (unlike the bees), so the analogy does not totally fit. That actually represents a way in which MySQL has *never* actually been a "open source community," so that they don't totally fit in... Reply

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