Saturday, September 18, 2010

Oracle officially ends the OpenSolaris project. Is MySQL next?

While the OpenSolaris board dissolved itself in August, the final blow to the open source operating system seems to have been delivered quietly and inadvertently by a leaked Oracle memo. While the memo does deliver a death blow to OpenSolaris, it goes on to say that Oracle's commitment to the Solaris OS remains strong, and that users of traditional (read: paid) Solaris have nothing to worry about. That may be true, but the ending of the OpenSolaris project is yet another indication of Oracles distaste for everything open source and leads us to wonder, is MySQL next?

With a paid OS under its belt, Oracle had no incentive to keep the OpenSolaris project alive. In a traditional software company, open source cannibalizes profits because the developers make their money by selling the 1's and 0's that make up the software instead of the services surrounding it. Why would Oracle continue to support a project that takes away from its paid software model?

There's absolutely no reason for them too.
It makes good business sense to kill OpenSolaris.

That should make those of us who rely on MySQL very nervous. Oracle makes the bulk of its money from the Oracle database, a competitor to Microsoft's SQL Server. MySQL, much like OpenSolaris, cannibalizes profits from the Oracle database. Every time a company chooses MySQL and open source, Oracle loses a potential customer. Economically, it makes no sense and I suspect that, as I write this, Oracle is sharpening a very large ax that will be used to take the head off of MySQL very soon.

"But what about the community?", I hear you say, "Certainly they won't let Oracle kill MySQL!" Here's a dirty little secret of the traditional software industry: they don't care about the community. They care about paying users, contracts, and seats sold. Communities don't pay the bills. Communities take up time that could be used to make more money. Yes, I realize how wrong that statement is but that is exactly how most traditional software companies view the concept of community.

The writing is on the wall. MySQL's days are numbered. It's only a matter of time before Oracle either kills MySQL completely or removes the open source licensing around it and offers a paid only version. But Oracle knows that the majority of MySQL users aren't going to translate to paid users. They're small time developers sitting behind a terminal hacking together code for a cool new web or open source application. They won't pay. What about those who are hosting small websites using MySQL? Nope, they aren't likely to pay the price Oracle will probably demand for a paid version of MySQL. That leaves only the corporate world and there's just not enough of MySQL there to justify a huge effort spent on continued development. It would make more sense to transition them all to Oracle DB.

I hope I'm wrong. While it has its faults, MySQL is definitely one of the best RDBMS out there and it would be a shame to see it go the way of OpenSolaris. But I'm afraid it's going to go that way very quickly. It's obvious that the main reason Oracle bought Sun is because it wanted one single technology: Java. In fact, Larry Ellison said that Java was "one of the most important technologies Oracle has ever purchased". He didn't mentioned Solaris, he didn't mention MySQL. It was Java they wanted. Everything else, is fair game and Larry Ellison has a really big gun.


fencepost said...

While the MySQL name & much of the development will cease to exist under Oracle, I'm sure there will be a large & unfortunately fragmented set of forks. Some things not covered by an open source license (or covered by patents) will be lost, there's enough demand out there to keep it going.

Oracle killing MySQL could end up being more like the breakup of AT&T - Oracle might be better off keeping it going but stifling it.