MySQL Founders: Kill All the Patents

Updated: Q&A:In the land of open source, the patent wars are red-hot, with the OSI recently condemning proliferation. MySQL co-founders Axmark and Widenius say the notion of patents should be canned altog

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—The patent wars are red-hot.

The OSI (Open Source Initiative) board earlier this month issued a statement condemning open-source license proliferation as "a significant barrier to open-source deployment." For its part, Intel requested in late March that OSI withdraw one of Intels patents from future use. Meta Group analyst Charlie Garry is predicting that through 2010, enterprises will flee from the steep fees of database software licensing and into the embrace of open source.

Thats great, say the founders of the open-source MySQL database—David Axmark and Michael "Monty" Widenius—now take it a step further and kill all the software patents, and wed be getting somewhere.

The duo sat down with Database Editor Lisa Vaas after their opening keynote at MySQL ABs third user conference Tuesday.

They were bullish on the upcoming enterprise-class features of 5.0 and on their beloved community, upon which the company relies for scrupulous bug fixing, but they also had some choice words for what they consider the undemocratic notion of software patents.

First, 5.0. Whats still missing?

Widenius: Weve got the most demand for big features. What weve done, some parts work extremely well, and some parts are just working. Now we want to get the working parts working really well. In the past, and now to some extent, MySQL has been good for production use, when you know what the application is doing and you know how to do queries in a good way, following good practice.

But at times, users dont have full control of the database. They can add queries without knowing whats efficient and what is not. MySQL, you just have to rewrite the query a bit. We could be much better with ad hoc queries.

Youve just announced a new migration tool, MySQL Migration Suite. Are you seeing increased migration from other databases?

Widenius: In practice, we can migrate data close to perfect. But stored procedures, we dont really do that.


Axmark: [The new tool] generates scripts that you can hand-edit if youre a power user.

Widenius: In principle, we are doing useful tools. Thats a big difference [between us and Microsoft Corp.]. For example, a Windows user, if they want to read with something, they have to click a thousand times.

Axmark: You have to do everything in the GUI, with Windows. [Users] get pissed off. They want to get at the data under the GUI. Our first release, you have the API, you have tools to work with the data, and you have tools on top of it. You can use it at both the high and low levels. When I use tools, I like tools that help me.

Widenius: [And our new tool,] thats for everybody. Usually the user community will not pay. They will help with bug reports, [etc.]

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