The world's most popular open source database
Arjen Lentz is a former Community Relations Manager at MySQL. He is currently the owner of Open Query and lives in Brisbane, Australia.
By Arjen Lentz
Community Relations Manager
15 February 2005
As news about MySQL Network is presented in the press, MySQL's Community Relations Manager Arjen Lentz explains what it all means for you, the MySQL Community, including developers.
This article is about MySQL Network. It's not a sales pitch, and won't contain marketing speak. It's written in "Arjen speak", and I'll only refer to some buzzwords to clarify what you might hear or read elsewhere. It's not my job to sell. I listen, inform and answer questions.
MySQL has a huge and varied community, which is very important. And MySQL Network is a big thing. So you, as a user, are likely to be curious about some of the details, or indeed be apprehensive about what it all means. I'll try to put the main points into perspective, but I appreciate that there are always more questions which I will be happy to try and answer. At the top of this article you will find a link to the forum dedicated for that purpose.
So what's this about? MySQL AB sells a number of products and services: Commercial (non-GPL) licenses, support, consulting, and more. This has always been the case. What MySQL Network does is simply unify all of that into an annual subscription service. There are also a couple of nifty new things in there.
But let's look first at what already was, and what is happening now. The main is: nothing is taken away. You can continue to download the latest and upcoming versions of MySQL. Also -and this is very important- there is only one single code base.
Everything that was free before, including future versions of MySQL Server.
The GPL licensed MySQL Server and related software by MySQL AB:
The latest and greatest features, with development (alpha/beta) and stable (production) versions.
Released early and released often.
Named MySQL Community Edition.
A myriad of resources, provided both by MySQL AB and others.
Nothing has been taken away, nor was licensing changed, nor code forked. There is a single code base for the MySQL server, dual-licensed with the free version available under the GPL license. These are fundamental to us and key points which the MySQL founders (Monty Widenius and David Axmark) always check for when we discuss new offerings internally. Our VP of Software Engineering, Maurizio Gianola, also reports: "Over 80% of our engineering effort is in support of the free server."
MySQL Network contains more features above and beyond the free services described above, and I'll cover the main ones:
MySQL Pro Certified Server
These are server binaries, compiled by us. There are specific binaries for Red Hat Linux, Novell's SuSE Linux, Windows, HP-UX, Solaris and other platforms. So it is more fine grained, allowing very specific build options and optimizations to be used. Mind you, it's just about the build, as the source code and functionality is all the same.
You probably know that we always test our binaries with our test suite. That doesn't change, but these particular binaries are also put through some additional tools, including commercial ones from Klocwork and Coverity, and subjected to known security attacks and other "nasties".
At the end of all that (and more), we declare it "certified". That is what Enterprise customers want. In fact, many actually have a policy that demands it!
What enterprise customers don't want is uncertainty. So they are not interested in what nifty new feature MySQL developer Sanja Byelkin implemented last week. They choose their version conservatively, and will continue running it for quite a long time. They do insist on critical bug and security fixes, but they don't want anything new mixed in.
Of course we
would love to sell MySQL Network to these (often very large)
companies, so we do the extra work, they pay for the privilege, and
Now for the bit that may surprise you: a certified binary is licensed under GPL. This does make sense, as the customers are end-users, they are not distributing. But if the customer so desires, we'll deliver a commercially (non-GPL) licensed binary instead, at no additional cost.
There are notification services for updates, technical and security alerts. You can find this information online, but MySQL Network will deliver it via email, SMS or pager, customized for the specific environment of the customer. You can find more information about the advisors here.
MySQL Knowledge Base
This is a collection of articles on topics DBAs and developers are interested in. It's neatly organized and searchable. Again, nothing is taken away as all the information is also available elsewhere: in the MySQL Manual, articles, books, and so on. As with the MySQL Advisors, the difference lies in the focus and convenience.
I think a comparison with books applies nicely. You can consult the MySQL reference manual on-line or on your own machine, but many of you go out and buy Paul DuBois' brilliant "MySQL" book because you like the way he explains things and arranges the information.
MySQL Technical Support
Support direct from the MySQL support team, consisting of seasoned MySQL developers. With incidents, email, and various levels of phone support up to 24x7 with 30 minutes response time. Basically the old valued support offering, rolled into the new subscription package. However, previously, in order to buy the Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of support, there was a minimum number of servers required, and that put it beyond the budget of many of our smaller customers. Now with MySQL Network there is no minimum. So you can buy Platinum level service for just one server if that's what you have. And you can choose the level of service that meets your needs, with pricing from US$595.
At the Gold and Platinum levels of MySQL Network, MySQL AB offers IP indemnity as an optional extra. Some customers ask for this, and it's now available.
As I already mentioned, there is more. See the MySQL Network pages for details.
Is MySQL Network at all like Red Hat Enterprise and Fedora?
No, as MySQL maintains a single code base.
So you may wonder, does all that extra testing of the certified server mean that the "free" server is unstable or more buggy? Of course not. Every release of MySQL needs to pass our standard test suite, anyway. The additional testing simply increases the customers' confidence. If security problems or bugs are found during the extra tests, they are fixed. As there is only a single code base, you will also see these fixes in the next version you download. The newest version of MySQL (4.1.10) contains fixes resulting from the Klocwork and Coverity tests, so you benefit directly! Of course, the enterprise users also benefit from you and the millions of other MySQL users: if you report a bug, it gets fixed for them also, automatically. I think it's a pretty good deal as everybody benefits, according to their needs.
Another question could be: if you have all these people, tools and facilities anyway, it won't cost you anything to give them out for free, right? Sorry, wrong - that doesn't jive with reality. We can only afford all these things because we have customers who pay us.
Compare it with purchasing a computer from Dell, where you may get some basic web-based support included. If you want 24x7 phone support or next-business day service on location, you pay extra. Developers, engineers and support people don't just magically sit there "anyway".
Well, MySQL Network actually makes all of that much simpler.
If you are an end-user, you can use a GPL licensed server and will
not require a commercial license to use MySQL. This applies even if
you are an ISP or if you sell services on your e-commerce web site,
since you are not distributing anything. If you are distributing
anything, please see under the Developer heading
If you want to take advantage of MySQL Network for your servers, you can get a yearly subscription. In case your organization is apprehensive about GPL licensed software, you can then ask for a commercial (non-GPL) license as an optional (but free) extra.
If you later decide that you no longer want to subscribe to MySQL Network, you can continue to use GPL licensed servers.
Developers (including ISVs/OEMs)
If you build an application, and link it with MySQL code, check out these possibilities:
Are you only using your application in-house?
→You are actually an end-user. See above.
distributing your application as Open Source under the GPL (free or for money, doesn't matter)?
→You may link with any GPL licensed MySQL code: client library or embedded server. The end-users of your software can, at their option, subscribe to MySQL Network.
Are you distributing your application and only linking with the MySQL
client libraries, not under GPL but with another Open Source license we allow? (see the FLOSS License Exception)
→Same as the previous point 2.
Are you distributing your application but it is not Open Source, and
you want to link with the MySQL server?
Contact MySQL AB to discuss an OEM agreement for commercial licenses. Embedding the MySQL server with your application can be an excellent idea, as it makes things very easy and cost-effective for your customers. And of course there are volume discounts.
You can sign up to be a MySQL Network Certified Partner. This program helps you certify your software as compatible with MySQL Network and is quite effective when you will have your customers buy MySQL Network. There is a cost associated with this program, but the basic level is very affordable and it also gives you MySQL Network for yourself, which includes access to the knowledge base and the advisors. As partner, you get listed on our partner web site, and your application will have a strategic advantage over competitors as it is certified for MySQL Network. There are some additional rules that govern the partner program.
Your customers may want to subscribe to MySQL Network, for which your software will be tested and certified, but you don't have to worry about individual licensing or anything like that. So this is the really big new thing for developers of closed-source software who want to support MySQL.
Of course, you can always sign up as a MySQL Network Certified Partner even if your situation is not as described above. You would get the benefits of MySQL Network as well as the partnership extras, for a decent price.
I won't go into the definitions of "linking" or "distribution" here. We follow what the GNU General Public License text and the FSF (Free Software Foundation, the people who wrote the GPL license) say about this (Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU GPL). Lawyers also have (varying!) opinions on this. If you are uncertain but don't want to pay a lawyer, please contact MySQL.
David Axmark wrote in an email to the company last week:
"The initial business model for MySQL (dual licensing) has worked great for the embedded market. But for the much much larger 'enterprise' database market it does not work. So for a couple of years the management (including Monty & me) has tried to figure out how we could get more in-house users of MySQL. So the question was what particular needs do commercial customers have, that they are willing to pay for the extra service and convenience, and still keep the Free Software/Open source philosophy that built the company? With MySQL Network, I think we've finally found a good answer to that question.
We are adding value tailored for enterprise users that is not available for free. And we are doing it with stuff like automated services. At the same time we're not taking anything away from the normal GPL user (from now on 'community edition' users). We've had lots of debates inside about how to best do this and we have walked a fine line here learning from what others have done right and avoiding some of the mistakes that others have made.
MySQL Network includes a lot of proactive services as well as certified/customized binaries and enterprise support, updates and advisors which really are valuable to corporate customers. The customers I and others have met with have all shown interest, from the large "old-style" companies like to extremely technical companies.
But for the small guys that have no money, there's nothing that we are taking away. So all our users in developing nations for example can continue to use everything they have before (I'm writing this sitting on a plane to a conference in India).
One other thing that I really like about MySQL Network is that we can eliminate some of the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) that has sometimes come up when trying to sell commercial licenses. If you want to use MySQL Community Edition for free in a corporation, you can. If you want the extra features of MySQL Network, like enterprise support and certified binaries and the advisor's and knowledge base, then you pay."
And Monty chimed in with his comments:
"MySQL Network is directed at Enterprise customers, and they have special requirements that are not fulfilled by the do-it-yourself nature of open source software alone. MySQL Network is a better support option for customers because they get more than before."
I have talked about MySQL Network with quite a few people in the Community before the launch. I also specifically approached people who, in the past, were critical of some of our licensing or business decisions. This article is in part based on those discussions, as I got asked some excellent (tough!) questions and this led to clearer answers. Input from the Community has helped us get a better understanding and helped shape our policies for MySQL Network. You can also find more details about MySQL Network in the MySQL Network FAQ.
I hope that things are clearer for you, too, and that you regard the new situation as a positive one. With this enhanced business model, we will have a greater ability to continue to invest in development now and in the future! If you still have questions, or just want to give your opinion, please do post on the forum that is linked from this article. Your feedback is much appreciated. Thanks!