A quick review of the Save MySQL online petition stats today shows that the results are still in line with the results I reported previously.  Over 90 percent of petition signees would require Oracle to divest MySQL to a “suitable third party”.  I noticed that Michael “Monty” Widenius’ post explaining the petition provided several options for a “suitable third party”.  First off, Monty makes it clear that his company is not interested in acquiring MySQL.  Monty’s list of potential buyers includes IBM, Fujitsu, any of the major Linux distribution vendors or a private equity firm that would take MySQL public.

As an IBMer I was interested to hear more about Monty’s thoughts on IBM.  Note that I do not work in the division where IBM’s database, DB2, is managed.  Nor do I have any information about IBM’s interest, or lack thereof, in MySQL.

I asked Monty this question via email:

Q] Would you require that IBM add the linking exception or have to re-license MySQL under the ASL 2.0 in order to acquire MySQL?

The linking exception or having to re-license MySQL are two of the options that Monty & Florian Mueller would like to see Oracle select before being allowed to acquire MySQL.

Monty replied:

“Personally I don’t consider IBM a direct competitor to MySQL and thus there would not be a need for a licensing remedy…With MySQL, IBM would have a vehicle to become a market leader in databases. IBM could only do this if they keep MySQL free to ensure it keeps it dominant position in units…IBM has more to gain by keeping MySQL Open Source and available to all than they could get by killing it.  With Oracle this is not the case.”

At first I bristled at this reply.  Why should Oracle accept a set of restrictions that IBM, another competitor in the database market, would not face?  However, the difference lies in the market position of the acquiring vendor.  Oracle is the revenue leader in the relational database market with over 40 percent share according to Gartner and IDC.  I don’t have the Gartner data handy, but IDC data suggests that Oracle had approximately a 2 to 1 lead versus IBM and Microsoft individually.  Considering Oracle’s market position versus IBM and Microsoft, it’s understandable that regulators would treat an Oracle acquisition of MySQL differently than, for example a Microsoft or IBM acquisition of MySQL.

One thing that does surprise me, pleasantly, is that Monty doesn’t see a “need for a licensing remedy” should IBM (Fujitsu or any of the major Linux distribution vendors) acquire MySQL.  Many have questioned Monty’s motives for blocking the MySQL acquisition.  Monty’s company competes with MySQL, but, unlike MySQL, Monty’s company cannot provide a commercial license to business partners or enterprises.  That’s why the linking exception or having to re-license MySQL under the Apache Software License 2.0 is seen as a boon to third party providers of MySQL products and services.  Had Monty replied that he would like any potential acquirer of MySQL accept a licensing remedy, one could draw a connection back to his current business interests.

Readers can make up their own mind as to Monty’s or Oracle’s motives.  But like most things in life, the story isn’t cut and dry.  And while I personally believe there is more for Oracle to gain by nurturing MySQL than not, but Larry Ellison won’t return my calls.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Florian Mueller begins 2010 by demonstrating why he was named EU Campaigner of the Year by the Economist five years ago. While most of us were prepping for New Year’s Eve celebrations or contemplating New Year’s resolutions, Monty and Mueller spent December 28th launching an online Save MySQL petition against the Oracle acquisition of MySQL via Sun. Mueller reports via email:

“www.helpmysql.org campaign delivers first 14,000 signatures against Oracle’s proposed acquisition of MySQL to European, Chinese and Russian competition authorities.

In less than one week, during the Holiday Season, we gathered 50 times more customer support than Oracle claimed three weeks ago.”

You can read the full press release here.

The campaign is displaying stats from petition signees.  This post is based on the first 16,306 signees as of 9am EST on Monday, January 4th.  If the results change markedly with new signees, I’ll post an update.

MySQL Enterprise Usage
Whether MySQL poses a competitive threat to Oracle’s database business has been a point of significant disagreement between Oracle and opponents of the MySQL acquisition including Monty and Mueller.  Oracle says there is little to no overlap.  Monty argues that MySQL has become feature rich and is a suitable replacement for Oracle’s database in several situations. Nearly a quarter of respondents identified themselves as working at a company using MySQL, and not simply an independent or self-employed software or web developer.  Of the respondents working at a company using MySQL, just over 20 percent worked at a company with 1000 or more employees.  This is clearly a customer group where Oracle databases would compete.  These results would seem to support Monty’s claims about MySQL competitiveness against Oracle.  On the other hand, there’s no reason that a large company wouldn’t want to use both MySQL and Oracle databases for small and large projects respectively.  In such a situation, did the MySQL usage displace Oracle usage, or, as Oracle would argue, SQL Server usage?  The former would support Monty’s claim, while the latter would support Oracle’s claim.  A generalized version of this question would have been a helpful addition to the Save MySQL petition.

Signees Would Require Oracle to Sell MySQL
Of the three solutions that Mueller and Monty suggest Oracle agree to before being allowed to complete the Sun acquisition, over 90 percent of signees believe that MySQL must be divested to a suitable third party.  Only 60 percent of signees believe that Oracle should be allowed to acquire MySQL as part of the Sun acquisition.  These signees would require Oracle to either commit to a linking exception for applications that use MySQL or require Oracle to release past and future versions of MySQL under the Apache Software License 2.0.

Go ahead and take a look at the petition here.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Last week Eben Moglen, founder and executive director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), submitted an independent opinion on the Oracle/Sun merger to the European Union (EU). Moglen summarized his submission as follows:

“The GPL was designed specifically to ensure the permanent freedom of software, and the ability of everyone to improve and share their improvements to the program, no matter who acquires the copyrights to the code.  The whole point of GPL as a copyright license is to deal with every contingency that could result in hobbling or destroying the freedom of code shared under it. The drafters of GPL versions 2 and 3 considered scenarios very similar to the ones that the Commission is concerned about now. The design of the license, and the experience we have had using it, show that it can be counted upon to operate as intended in situations like this one.”

Moglen issued the 11 page opinion, pro bono and without the charge, at the request of Oracle’s counsel.  Moglen clarified that Oracle is an ongoing contributor to the SFLC, while Monty Widenius has contributed in the past.  However, neither the contributions from Oracle nor Widenius have exceeded 5 percent of SFLC’s funding since inception.

I found the following paragraph from Moglen’s submission particularly interesting:

“MySQL is now and always has been an atypical GPL software project, because its copyright was highly centralized inside a small commercial firm that considered dual licensing its only commercially attractive strategy for survival. But even MySQL AB’s atypical business model, which was highly unreflective of the mass of GPL’d software development, occurred within the parameters of the GPL’s overall design, which is to ensure the freedom of the software it protects regardless of the commercial motivations or behaviors of the parties distributing the primary upstream version.”

On the other end of the debate, Florian Mueller announced that he has submitted a 31 page rebuttal to Moglen’s position.  Mueller provided a summary of the highlights via email, from which I selected these comments:

“Fundamentally, his paper offers a different prediction as to what would happen post-acquisition. He simply expresses his firm belief that whatever made MySQL successful in the past is not really an indication for the future. In fact he believes MySQL AB had a very suboptimal business model…

If he were right that MySQL AB and all of the companies that succeeded around MySQL didn’t do it right and that a GPL-only approach works best, then actually there would be no point in Sun having acquired MySQL last year nor in Oracle acquiring it now because then the future would at any rate be that someone has to fork it and do a GPL-only project dependent on voluntary contributions. Interestingly, that approach would have been possible during all of those almost 14 years that MySQL has been available and no one, not even Eben Moglen, decided to seize that opportunity.”

Both Moglen and Mueller make strong and weak points.

First, Moglen is too quick to dismiss MySQL as an atypical GPL project.  As Mueller points out, whatever you think about MySQL and their business model, you can’t simply conclude that another business model would be more appropriate.  Just because Linux is licensed under the GPL and Linux vendors, namely Red Hat and Novell are closing in on a combined $1B in revenue, does not mean the GPL is the best license for every open source product with commercial aspirations.  The Linux ecosystem is very different than say, application servers or web content management.  Different markets with different ecosystems require different license considerations.

While Moglen appears to be arguing for a “pure GPL” MySQL, departing from the dual-licensed status quo, Groklaw reports that Mueller and Widenius would like to see the MySQL open source license changed from GPLv2 to the Apache Software License.  According to Groklaw, page 19 of an unreleased submission to the EU from Mueller/Widenius stated:

“We would like to draw attention to the fact that some major concerns about the effects of the proposed transaction could be somewhat alleviated by requiring that all versions of MySQL source code previously released under the GPLv2 license …must be released under a more liberal open source license that is usable also by the OEM users and would also create an opportunity for other service vendors to compete with offerings comparable to MySQL Enterprise. A good candidate is the Apache Software License (ASL).”

Something doesn’t feel right about Widenius proposing a license that MySQL could have chosen “over the past 14 years”.  Clearly MySQL decided against this move as the GPL/dual licensing approach led to a competitive advantage that the ASL v2.0 would not provide MySQL.  But I guess that’s why Widenius suggests Oracle should be forced to re-license MySQL under a permissive license such as the ASL v2.0.

We haven’t heard the last from Widenius & Mueller. Enjoy your holiday season ;-)

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”