Sun Asserts MySQL Will Remain Open Source

Marten Mickos, head of Sun Microsystems' database group, says MySQL will remain an open-source product.

After several days of blog posts and headlines, the dust that kicked up over Sun Microsystems' commitment to keeping MySQL open source seems to have settled.

At the center of the controversy were reports of plans to close-source backup features in Version 6.0 of the MySQL database, making them available only to subscription-paying users of its enterprise version. In an effort to clear the air, Marten Mickos, senior vice president of Sun's Database Group, responded to blog posts on Slashdot and elsewhere.

In an interview with eWEEK, he stated emphatically that Sun will not withhold or close-source any features that would make the MySQL community server less functional for users.

The core backup functionality and a backup API in Version 6.0 will be available to users of both the community and enterprise versions of the database, he said. However, the company plans to develop high-end add-ons such as encryption and compression solely for its MySQL Enterprise subscription customers, Mickos said.

Mickos calls MySQL the Ferrari of databases. Read why here.

"It is not a question of close-sourcing any existing code, nor anything in the core server," Mickos said. "Everything MySQL has released under the GPL license continues to be under GPL, and the core MySQL server will always be under GPL, or some other free and open-source software [FOSS] license."

Mickos said it has not been decided yet what license the add-ons will be released under. Sun, he added, was not part of the initial plans regarding the backup functionality-those discussions were taking place well before the acquisition by Sun earlier this year.

"At all times, because the main backup functionality goes into the core server under GPL, anyone can use the API and build their own add-ons or other modifications," he said. "We are also offering them a convenient, low-cost option through our add-ons, but not forcing them or restricting them from building their own."

Several MySQL users objected on blogs last week to talk of making key functionality available only to paying customers. It wasn't the first time open-source advocates took MySQL to task for such moves; there was a similar, albeit more subdued, reaction when MySQL AB announced it was removing Enterprise source tarballs from last August, analyst Matt Aslett noted.

"MySQL has been quick to respond to the criticism this time, and has been very open in explaining its strategy on user blogs, and the company does appear to have been able to stop the resentment from growing," said Aslett, who is with The 451 Group. "It would be prudent for the company to prioritize deciding on which licenses it will use for the new functionality so that it can explain its strategy properly before doubt continues to spread."

Mickos admitted the initial information was released awkwardly by the company and said he understood why some members of the open-source community were upset at first. This is why the company sought to aggressively address some of their concerns, he said.

"Open-source software is really just now reaching the radar of mainstream IT," Mickos said. "There is still work to be done in formulating business models around open source, and so some degree of experimentation is essential. Keep in mind, open source itself began as an experiment in the software industry. So all vendors should not be afraid to continue to experiment both in software and in business models."