IDG News Service - MySQL AB has made it harder for developers to use the enterprise edition of its database software for free, sparking a debate about whether the company has strayed from its obligation to the open-source community.
Kaj Arno, MySQL vice president for community, announced in his blog this week that the company will no longer host the code for MySQL Enterprise Server in binary form on its public FTP servers, and will offer that version only to paying customers.
The goal is to make it clearer that the enterprise edition is aimed at paying customers, who also receive support and other services, and that another version of the product, MySQL Community Server, is for developers who use the software for free, he said.
The source code for MySQL Enterprise Server will still be freely available from the MySQL Bitkeeper repository, but not as a single, executable file, also known as a "tarball," which means it will take more time and effort to install.
The change conforms with the terms of the open-source GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) that MySQL uses, Arno wrote, "something that we've verified" with the FSF (Free Software Foundation) "to eliminate any doubt."
MySQL's changes may have been motivated by pressure from Wall Street. The company, which made $50 million in revenue in 2006, is preparing for an IPO. But investors would likely be dissatisfied with CEO Måarten Mickos' recent admission that today, 999 out of 1,000 MySQL users never pay the company any money.
Nevertheless, the change sparked criticism. Some developers said MySQL should maintain free access to the enterprise product, since the MySQL community helps to test and develop the software voluntarily. Others argued that MySQL has a right to make business decisions that allow the company to make more money.
The move may comply "technically" with the GPL, "but it doesn't seem to fit with the spirit of open source," MySQL developer Mike Kruckenberg wrote in a blog post about the changes. "When I think open source I think freely available source, not source I can get once I've paid for a license."
He speculated about a "MySQL master plan" to eventually close off the source code for its enterprise product and "cripple" the community edition, forcing all users to pay for the software.
Kevin Burton, CEO of the Internet company Spinn3r, which uses MySQL in its business, said the changes will achieve the opposite of MySQL's goal. "It's just going to make it harder for the Open Source community to work with MySQL and end up pushing them into the hands of PostgreSQL," a rival open-source database, he wrote in his blog.
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