Competition and Open Source

I’m hearing some people think we at Percona are in unfair competition with Sun/MySQL.   Indeed  Sun and MySQL invest millions in MySQL Development and we just take this result  extend it with few patches and provide our services around it.     People with such thinking do not really understand  the spirit of Open Source at all.  Open Source is about freedom and gives a lot of power to community and the customer, unlike tradition commercial software which is built around lock in.

If you’re traditional software company like Microsoft you build your software and leverage your monopoly to drive your business.   With Microsoft SQL Server not only people have to purchase software itself but the Microsoft remains the only choice for features in core Microsoft SQL Server you might need or support (like bug fixes).   There are thousands of companies having some professional services around the product but there is large amount of things which only Microsoft can do and so customers choosen to build on this technology have little choice.

With Open Source software, like MySQL things are different.  Not only you do not need to pay for MySQL Server itself  (in most cases) but also there are choices for all services you need.  You do not have to wait for MySQL to implement features – you can do them yourself, like Google and some other large companies or you can hire someone like Percona to do it for you. You can also fix bugs  yourself or make third parties to do that for you.  Of course still “creators of MySQL” are assumed to be best for a lot of stuff –  having developers which know code base the best or have best support team.  These  advantages however are much softer than “only we can touche the source code” and you have to constantly work hard on proving these to the customers.

Deciding to build company  on Open Source software you should accept rules of the game –  Open Source provide you a lot of advantages with market reach community and viral marketing but it also provides a lot of challenges such as you have to continue proving you’re best source for the product and for services –    Open Source product can be Forked/Branched and everyone can provide services around the product on the same conditions as you do.

In case of Sun/MySQL things are actually shifted even more to their advantage comparable to fully Open Source business –   Sun/MySQL sells licenses for commercial software, which is something what no other company around MySQL can do (without licensing code from MySQL on the first place).

The fact there is limited control over the customers by the vendor may be bad for vendors business but it is great for the customer putting a lot of choice and power in their hands.

Interesting enough there are more people which seems to think the same.  Monty annonced he has left Sun and starting his own company which will work in MySQL ecosystem providing the “Branch” with Monty’s extensions but pulling back all changes/new features/bug fixes from original MySQL.

5 thoughts on “Competition and Open Source

  1. Ernesto Vargas

    It will be very unfair if MySQL takes Percona/Google patches, merge it back to the main product and start collection from their enterprise clients, but not allowing Percona, Google and the community to collaborate back, no write access to version control.

  2. admin Post author

    I guess this is going to remain rule of the game. MySQL wants to control quality etc of their product release and this is unlikely going to change.

    I think RedHat model is nice in this respect – they allow community to innovate and experiment with Fedora and when take what works to Enterprise Linux. Though the distribution is different from single core application and also “right sign off” requirement is hard.

    Drizzle which is purely GPL based is best in this regard though it is a good question how Sun will be able to commercialize it.

  3. kostja

    Being part of MySQL development team, I can sign under this post. However, I think you got the criticism of Percona a bit wrong. It’s completely okay to have an ecosystem around an open source product, and have many competing offerings on the market. But it’s not okay to get cheap publicity whenever your partner in the ecosystem stumbles — and I think Percona was doing something close to that with speculation on 5.1 release and blogging about bugs that in the end turned out to be non-repeatable after all.

  4. admin Post author


    At Percona our goal is fair information about the products we evaluate. Sometimes we may be over optimistic sometime over pessimistic.

    It is true though we often bring up problems to the public, mainly because Marketing Forces often try to spin things in too positive way.

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