August 9, 2007

MySQL ends distribution of Enterprise source tarballs

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

MySQL quietly let slip that it would no longer be distributing the MySQL Enterprise Server source as a tarball, not quite a year after the company announced a split between its paid and free versions. While the Enterprise Server code is still under the GNU General Public License (GPL), MySQL is making it harder for non-customers to access the source code.

Kaj Arnö, the company's vice president of community relations, wrote that the Enterprise tarballs "will be removed from ftp.mysql.com. These will move to enterprise.mysql.com, and will be available for our paying subscribers only." Customers will also be able to get the source out of the MySQL BitKeeper repository, but it will no longer be available as a source tarball.

According to Arnö, the move was made to "underline the positioning goal of 'Community Server for community users, Enterprise Server for paying users'. And the GPL requires us (like anybody else) to hand out the code to those whom we give the binaries, which in the case of MySQL Enterprise Server is just the customers."

This does conform with the letter of the GPL, as Arnö points out on his blog, but how will it fly with the community? Some in the MySQL community aren't too pleased. Mike Kruckenberg, whose blog is carried on Planet MySQL, called this a move away from open source for MySQL.

Derek Rodner, director of product strategy for EnterpriseDB, says that this is a sign MySQL is trying to get ready for its IPO, but he says by limiting access to source code "they're going to alienate many of their paying customers" as well as the community.

Zack Urlocker, vice president of marketing at MySQL, says that the company isn't trying to alienate its Community users, "and if it comes across that way, it's a mistake in our communications." Instead, Urlocker says that the company is trying to clarify who should be using and distributing the Community version of the software. Urlocker says that MySQL wants to prevent "unnecessary proliferation of a lot of MySQL versions," and that "we're not trying to take something away, though I guess we have; it's to eliminate confusion."

One of the things that many users worry about is whether they're getting an inferior version of MySQL by using the Community version. Urlocker says that MySQL "wants to make sure the Community version is rock solid," but admitted that the company has introduced features into the Community edition of the software that "[weren't] as robust as we thought, and created some instabilities."

Because of that, the company is revising its policies about when features go into the Community releases. Urlocker says that MySQL will now restrict new features to alpha and beta releases of the Community version of MySQL to "avoid a situation where the community version isn't as tested or isn't as solid" as the enterprise version.

Urlocker was also careful to point out that there's not a major disparity in features between the Enterprise and Community editions of MySQL, but that the Enterprise version is distinguished by support offerings and an update schedule that are better suited for enterprise customers.

Though MySQL AB will not be distributing the source tarball, Urlocker says that MySQL isn't going to try to stop distribution of Enterprise Server source by others. "If somebody wants to, that's fine. People can distribute it.... It may not be something we've necessarily tested, but we're not going to try to coerce people against it."

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