Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

MySQL -- The Sequel

So I jump online to talk with other coders and I'm greeted with a link.  It's for another of those online petitions that you know are always so effective.  It's to stop Sun from selling themselves to Oracle for the sake of MySQL.

Sun has been having problems, and despite some stuff that embraces Open Source, they have too many liabilities to completely transition to, say, the Red Hat business model.  IBM was in talks to buy them, but the deal fell through without warning.  Next thing everyone knew, Larry Ellison, the head of Oracle, announced his company was buying Sun.

Unlike the IBM negotiations, this one hit a tar pit of monopoly concerns.  Why, I don't know.  IBM makes hardware and supports three different OS' (Windows, Linux, and for a little while longer, OS/2).  Sun makes hardware and supports two different OS', Slolaris...sorry, Solaris and OpenSolaris.  They also were assisting M$ for a while in their campaign to FUD Linux into submission.  Sun's own Open Source license, the CDDL, was specifically engineered to be incompatible with the GPL.  Sun lately has extended an olive branch to the FOSS community, but is finding lots of people don't trust them.  And with Unix dying off due to splintering, Sun is frozen out of it's potential saving grace by their earlier animosity.

Larry Ellison is the business world equivalent of a cowboy, and he's finding Open Source is a tough nut to crack.  Thanks to his understanding of the GPL, he knows what is legal and what isn't.  He created Unbreakable Linux, which was simply rebranded Red Hat (seriously, there is virtually no difference between the two distros), expecting customers interested in Red Hat to go with him and his longstanding business.  It backfired -- people preferred Red Hat with their customer service and the fact that patches are immediately available instead of having to enter Oracle's stream first.  He's withstood the M$ assault with his maverick behavior, but that doesn't make him one of us.

The reason some people worry about Oracle buying Sun is the danger to their stacks.  Most of your hosting environments runs what is called a LAMP stack -- the server runs a combination of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl.  (There is also the WAMP stack, which is Windows, Apache, MySQL, and Perl.  You run that combo, you deserve what you get.)  MySQL is a GPL'ed database manager owned and maintained by Sun.  Oracle's primary business is its own database servers and software.  People are worried that Oracle will either take MySQL private, saying pay up or else, or that they will just kill it off since they don't want MySQL competing with their bread and butter database.

The EU is holding up the buyout until the concerns are addressed.  One guy, a supposed expert in software, not only misrepresented the GPL, but actually said people like Eben Moglen, the white knight in Richard Stallman's court and lead legal council on the GPL, doesn't have any idea what he's talking about.  Now, there's a petition for people to electronically sign, and links to it are spreading like herpes in a frat house.

The thing is, even the most basic understanding of the GPL renders the whole thing moot.  MySQL is GPL'ed.  Oracle can take it private if they want, but only versions from that point on.  All previous versions of MySQL can be taken and modified as users like, as the license is perpetual.  That means, just like every Linux distro and many FOSS projects, people will get together, create a stream, and maintain and build MySQL on their own.  It will never die, no matter what Oracle does with its source code.  This petition isn't going to do jack shit, and why supposedly GPL savvy people don't get that, I don't understand.

A lot of the big names in Open Source have gone to the comment sections of blogs linking to the petition explaining why they won't sign and why signing it is a bad idea (one entry even came from one of Oracle's own legal councilors about why MySQL is safe!).  We like to say we're smart.  Let's start acting like it.
Tags: computers, foss, important life lessons, linux, open source
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