Oracle Cant Stifle Open-Source Databases

By Charles Garry  |  Posted 2006-03-01

Oracle Cant Stifle Open-Source Databases

Oracle is out to stop the open-source movement. Specifically Oracle, is out to kill MySQL. This seems to be the mindset of the unseen, Slashdot-posting, no doubt Birkenstock-wearing group of open-source zealots concerning Oracles recent moves.

Actually, to be fair, when I spoke at the MySQL conference a few years ago, I didnt see a single pair of Birkenstocks.

In case youve missed it, Oracle late last year acquired Innobase, a tiny company that developed a transactional storage engine for the MySQL database.

Oracle also recently announced they had acquired Sleepycat Software, which like MySQL, supports a dual licensing strategy, but in support of Berkley DB.

To add fuel to the conspiracy theorists, Berkley DB also forms the basis for another storage engine that is an option for MySQL users requiring transactional support.

So Oracles plan is to destroy MySQL and the open-source database movement by eliminating the competitors ability to handle transactional workloads.

This move will keep MySQL marginalized at the fringes of corporate IT infrastructure doing things like massively cloned read-only chores, or so the logic goes.

Click here to read Lisa Vaas commentary on whether Oracle will use the Innobase buyout as a weapon.

This preserves Oracles proprietary place as the central database of record. This sounds plausible, doesnt it?

Im surprised the government hasnt launched a massive anti-trust investigation into this whole affair.

The flip side is that corporate users of MySQL do not seem to be all that upset or concerned about Oracles recent moves. No real surprise there, as MySQL has yet to take on anything approaching a mission critical status within the majority of Global 5000 corporate IT organizations.

More important is the fact that corporate users have different concerns. For them its all about stability, accountability and finally cost--usually in that order.

Certainly there are a great many smaller or not-for-profit organizations with very limited IT budgets that use MySQL or some other open source database out of necessity.

Not surprisingly, they are concerned that they will someday have to pay a licensing fee for something they have traditionally paid nothing for.

I would be the last one to fault a user for being skeptical of Oracles motives. Ive done too much work on Oracle licensing rules and their liberal use of the software audit as a sales tactic to not acknowledge that any healthy dose of skepticism towards Oracle is well deserved.

On the other hand, I have worked closely with Oracle over the past six years and as much as I hate to admit it (because its more fun to believe otherwise), they do not strike me as being an evil company.

Perhaps a bit stubborn at times and certainly guilty of drinking too much of their own marketing, Kool-Aid. But evil? I dont think so.

Next Page: GPL keeps open source alive.

GPL Keeps Open Source


The main point that everyone, zealots et al, should remember is that open source cannot be stopped by Oracle or anyone else.

The GPL (General Public License) has rendered that scenario implausible. Would it be difficult to fork the code of MySQL or any other open source project like JBoss (also rumored to be in Oracles sights) and continue to present a purely open source option? Not really.

Dont you think Oracle has already thought this through? Unless there is some specific non-competition clause, Sleepycat developers could take their share of the spoils and start a new company, doing the same thing the day after the deal with Oracle closes. After all, they are not stealing code from Oracle as it already exists in the public domain.

Read more here about Oracles recent acquisition of Sleepycat Software.

The same would be true if Oracle bought MySQL with the exception that former MySQLers could not use the name MySQL for the database they would be forking because the copyright or trademark would belong to Oracle.

If you currently use MySQL or JBoss, do you really care what the name is if you still have access to the software and the people that have supported you all along?

Perhaps I am in the minority here or perhaps it simply makes for more pithy commentary to simply bash Oracle for this new strategy of buying open-source companies.

As I stated in my Oct. 13, 2005, commentary on the Innobase buyout, I believe that Oracle simply recognizes the momentum that open source model has built up.

I believe Oracle simply wants to get plugged into the existing communities and see what opportunities might develop in the future.

After all, let us not forget that MySQL, JBoss, Sleepycat and others were created to make money.

Even developers of open-source software have to eat, buy clothes and watch cable television. That all requires money.

Oracle needs MySQL perhaps more than MySQL needs Oracle. So I do not anticipate any huge changes in the relationship between those two companies to alter the status quo in the open source space. Nor do I anticipate any impact being felt by users of MySQL or Berkley DB.

Oracle wants to eventually make money. They certainly didnt make these acquisitions for the huge maintenance dollars.

Without MySQL, what would Oracle do with Innobase? This has to be about growing the space and looking for new opportunities. Having another software heavyweight involved will only grow the open-source market, not hurt it.

So everyone should take a chill pill. Slip on their Birkenstocks, and spin up some Bob Dylan, because the times they are a changing.

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