Sun Claims MySQL Backend Requires Commercial License

January 13th, 2009 at 3:11 pm by Mark
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     At the beginning of last year, Matt Mullenweg of WordPress stated that the takeover of MySQL by Sun Microsystems was, “a good thing.”  Being that MySQL is the world’s most popular “free” Database solution, I immediately registered my concern, based on the twenty years of experience working with Sun’s products, vendors and support staff, and the general malaise that has existed at the company since 2002.

     A software developer, working on a for-profit website, contacted me today, more than a little worried over something Sun had told them…

     “Since you’re running your application on top of MySQL, you are required to purchase an enterprise license for MySQL.”

     So it seems that Sun wants to change the terms of the Free, Open Source version of the MySQL product such that any software developer who allows the use of their Free, Open Source backend has to pay Sun a small fortune for an Enterprise MySQL License.  Not only is it complete and utter bullshit, this is typical of Sun’s usual strong-arm tactics which nearly every commenter on Matt’s article warned about.

     In nearly all instances of PHP software development, MySQL is merely being used a storage backend.  No part of MySQL is being reproduced or packaged with any PHP software that I can think of, whether said software is Open Source, GPL, Freeware, or a Commercial Product.

     And if they are willing to lie and attempt to cheat software developers out of their meager savings, then how well does this bode for future software development using MySQL as a backend? 
     Will Sun attempt to go after for-profit Internet Service Providers who provide users with the ability to devlop their own Database applications, or use MySQL as a backend to other web-based applications?  Will Sun attempt to go after Hosting providers who do the same?

     You can expect as much from a company who was a proven track-record of being one of the most greedy corporations on the planet.  If it weren’t for their benefactors in the US Government, who heavily utilized their overpriced hardware and ridiculously priced “Platinum” support packages, Sun would have gone bust a long time ago.  But, with your tax dollars footing their equity, Sun even managed to send their multi-million dollar Platinum Support customers to deal with ill-trained, rural support staff based in India… So much for Platinum, eh?

     PostGreSQL is looking better and better…


3 Responses to “Sun Claims MySQL Backend Requires Commercial License”

  1. Mark Says:

    Just to clarify. The “website” the developer is working on is simply that. It’s a private effort, not a product that’s either for sale or providing any portion of the MySQL database for use or distribution. It’s simply being used as a storage mechanism.

    Sun goes on the offensive, claiming that the developer is required to purchase an Enterprise Software License if they plan on using MySQL, their “free” database, as the storage mechanism for said website.

    There is absolutely nothing in the MySQL license scheme which requires this.

    Clearly, this is the most popular database in use on the Internet. A vast majority of websites out there use MySQL as the backend database, and this stance by Sun has pretty drastic and far-reaching consequences. When you add the facts that it’s difficult to find a Web Hosting Provider who doesn’t either provide or use MySQL, and that pretty much every Linux distribution out there contains MySQL packages for use on Servers and Desktops, and you’ve got great potential for a bloody mess.

    This is exactly the sort of thing that so many of us who posted retorts at Matt’s article were worried would happen with Sun behind the helm of MySQL.

  2. Matthew Montgomery Says:

    I happened upon this blog post and wished to respond. If this report is true someone from “pre-merger” Sun must be very confused and I would wish to correct any mistake.

    There has been no change of terms of the mysql server license following the acquisition of MySQL by Sun. We have committed to maintaining the original interpretation of GPLv2 for the mysql server product for the foreseeable future.

    The commercial license only applies to redistribution and derivative work

    From : http://www.mysql.com/about/legal/licensing/oem/
    “OEMs, ISVs, VARs and other distributors that combine and distribute commercially licensed software with MySQL software and do not wish to distribute the source code for the commercially licensed software under version 2 of the GNU General Public License (the “GPL”) must enter into a commercial license agreement with Sun.”

    As an end user you are not required to obtain a commercial license. This is true weather you use mysql in for-profit or FOSS venture. Only if you *distribute* your application under non-GPL compatible terms must you get a license. This has not changed.
    See Also : http://www.mysql.com/about/legal/licensing/foss-exception/

    Of course, Sun would strongly recommend that you purchase a support agreement for any MySQL instance deployed into a commercial, production environment. But it is in no way mandated. The MySQL Community Edition is freely usable for what it seems the developer was planning. MySQL 5.0 Community simply lacks the frequency of binary releases that the 5.0 Enterprise version does. For MySQL 5.1 the binary releases of Community and Enterprise editions coincide. There are no substantives differences between these versions.

    Usage of the MySQL Enterprise edition does require a support contract to be purchased with it. However MySQL Enterprise Server is still distributed under the terms of the GPL. So, if you do not have a MySQL Enterprise agreement and encounter any bug for which a fix does not appear in the current Community binary but does in the Enterprise binary, you still have the option to download the source from the public repository https://launchpad.net/mysql-server and build the latest version for yourself.

    MySQL Enterprise is meant to serve as value-add proposition for commercial users who require a support SLA. I’m very sorry if the terms of this were not conveyed correctly to you or the software developer sited above. Please accept my apologies for any mis-information.

    Thank you,

    Matthew Montgomery
    MySQL Senior Support Engineer
    Sun Microsystems Inc., Database Group
    San Antonio, Texas, USA

    P.S. Being in the MySQL Support organization I know of 0 MySQL support staff based in India. However, there are many support engineers distributed all over the US, Europe and Pacific rim.

  3. Mark Says:

    Thanks, Matthew, for the clarification.

    Of course, I had already sent the same clarifications (from the same sources) on to the developers in question stating, “The Sun rep you spoke to is flat out wrong according to every published license. Send them the links I showed you, and tell them where they can stick their Enterprise License Requirements.” Or words to that effect.

    I didn’t state anything about MySQL support being in India, however, Sun Server Platinum Support (the biggest customer being the US Government) was transferred to India in 2003. This continued to be an issue so much due to the technical inability of support staff (in addition to language barriers) that Sun lost quite a lot of business on the E3K & E10K Enterprise side — a very costly mistake, in fact, which cut severely into their profits. One particular section stopped spending some $1.2 million per year, and reduced their spend to a mere $75K per year. I know of many other (mostly larger) Government sections who went similar routes thanks to the mess.

    I listened to one Sun executive (the name escapes me at present) disserting that their loss in revenue was due to the mass proliferation of Linux in the Public Sector, however, the argument doesn’t hold up to history or common sense. They could have kept their Public Sector by keeping Platinum Support where it belonged, rather than making Government employees & contrators jump through hoops with script readers — and Linux never would have been made a viable option due to its “Public Domain” stigma (which, thanks to myself and others like me, started to change in 2004). Enterprise Linux had been out for several years already, and when Oracle officially gave it the go-ahead, combined with Sun’s staunch defense of their Indian support operation, they lost a crap-ton of business.

    I admire your adherence to MySQL and the spirit of it, but Sun is a loose cannon. And quite honestly, if they hadn’t attempted to stay alive by acquiring other products (such as MySQL), they would have gone bust a few years ago.

    For the last nine years, Sun has suffered from a radical sales team who use strong-arm fear tactics in an effort to bolster customers. The fact that they’re now using this particular tactic in pushing Enterprise MySQL Support Contracts only makes them even more reprehensible.