Quarrel Dogs Open Database Effort

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-07-16

The effort to push an open source database system into competition with commercial products is anything but friendly, with two companies locked in a fierce battle.

NuSphere thinks the time is right for open source system MySQL to compete with commercial database systems, such as Oracle. But it knows that prospect is dim as long as it is quarreling with its Swedish counterpart, MySQL AB.

NuSphere sells a commercial version of the system, the $299 MySQL Advantage 2.0, which it calls a "portal out of the box." Last week, it concluded that the time was right to broaden the appeal of the database system, which is used by Yahoo!, and NASA, by launching an open source site, MySQL.org, to help develop the database.

But the launch of that site brought a swift and unhappy rejoinder from the Swedish originators of MySQL, including its principal author, Michael Widenius.

"We normally welcome new sites that focus on the MySQL server, but this one violates our trademark and may lead users to wrongfully believe it represents the people behind MySQL," Widenius said on the Swedish companys Web site, www. mysql.com. "We were not contacted about this Web site, and it operates without our authorisation."

Britt Johnston, NuSpheres chief technology officer, said that the dispute airs some dirty linen between the two companies.

NuSphere was formed after a contract was negotiated between MySQL AB and Progress Software last summer that allowed a new Progress subsidiary, NuSphere, to launch a product with MySQL in its name. Progress paid more than $300,000 to achieve the terms of the contract, Johnston said. NuSphere was just forming and had two employees at the time, he said.

Since launching its product line, NuSphere sought to submit changes to the MySQL development community at MySQL.! but was confronted with a requirement that it turn over ownership of the changes to the Swedish company.

NuSphere balked at the demand, and decided to launch MySQL.org, where contributions would remain as shared code under the General Public License and not owned by any commercial company — including NuSphere.

But Marten Mickos, CEO of the Swedish firm, said that MySQL is a registered trademark of his company in the U.S., Sweden and 13 other countries. "Developers may contact us to discuss how they use the MySQL trademark under license from MySQL AB," he said.

Analysts said MySQL must find a way to generate a development community and support if it wants to compete with another open source database, PostgreSQL, distributed by Red Hat and Great Bridge. Open source databases lag behind their commercial counterparts, but have found niches in Web page serving and other specialized functions, said Carl Olofson, IDCs database analyst.

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