December 14, 2009

Oracle lifts the cloud hanging over MySQL storage engine vendors

Oracle has put out a press release promising to play nicely with MySQL if its Sun takeover is approved. The parts in italics below are quotes. My comments are in plain text.

1. Continued Availability of Storage Engine APIs. Oracle shall maintain and periodically enhance MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture to allow users the flexibility to choose from a portfolio of native and third party supplied storage engines.

MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture shall mean MySQL’s current practice of using, publicly-available, documented application programming interfaces to allow storage engine vendors to “plug” into the MySQL database server. Documentation shall be consistent with the documentation currently provided by Sun.

Well, duh.

2. Non-assertion. As copyright holder, Oracle will change Sun’s current policy and shall not assert or threaten to assert against anyone that a third party vendor’s implementations of storage engines must be released under the GPL because they have implemented the application programming interfaces available as part of MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture.

A commercial license will not be required by Oracle from third party storage engine vendors in order to implement the application programming interfaces available as part of MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture.

Oracle shall reproduce this commitment in contractual commitments to storage vendors who at present have a commercial license with Sun.

This is the biggie, lifting a major cloud from the MySQL storage engine business. It sounds like the third of four options I suggested as to how Oracle could legitimately earn antitrust approval of its MySQL takeover. Sure, Infobright, Kickfire, et al. already had what they saw as adequate safeguards or contingency plans vs. Oracle skullduggery. It’s still big even so.

(Quoted out of order.) The geographic scope of these commitments shall be worldwide and these commitments shall continue until the fifth anniversary of the closing of the transaction.

Not a disaster, but with respect to at least point #2 there should be no time limit whatsoever. I’d like to see the EC require that change as a further Oracle concession.

3. License commitment. Upon termination of their current MySQL OEM Agreement, Oracle shall offer storage vendors who at present have a commercial license with Sun an extension of their Agreement on the same terms and conditions for a term not exceeding December 10, 2014.

Oracle shall reproduce this commitment in contractual commitments to storage vendors who at present have a commercial license with Sun.

Actually, I don’t think this was ever enough of a problem to be a big deal.

4. Commitment to enhance MySQL in the future under the GPL. Oracle shall continue to enhance MySQL and make subsequent versions of MySQL, including Version 6, available under the GPL. Oracle will not release any new, enhanced version of MySQL Enterprise Edition without contemporaneously releasing a new, also enhanced version of MySQL Community Edition licensed under the GPL. Oracle shall continue to make the source code of all versions of MySQL Community Edition publicly available at no charge.

This one is too weasel-worded to matter much.

5. Support not mandatory. Customers will not be required to purchase support services from Oracle as a condition to obtaining a commercial license to MySQL.

Not clear how significant this is given that there are no price assurances about the license cost.

6. Increase spending on MySQL research and development. Oracle commits to make available appropriate funding for the MySQL continued development (GPL version and commercial version). During each of the next three years, Oracle will spend more on research and development (R&D) for the MySQL Global Business Unit than Sun spent in its most recent fiscal year (USD 24 million) preceding the closing of the transaction.

Oracle won’t shut down the MySQL business for at least 3 years. Duh. If there was any chance of Oracle doing so in the first place, it wouldn’t have let MySQL delay the whole merger for this long.

7. MySQL Customer Advisory Board. No later than six months after the anniversary of the closing, Oracle will create and fund a customer advisory board, including in particular end users and embedded customers, to provide guidance and feedback on MySQL development priorities and other issues of importance to MySQL customers.

8. MySQL Storage Engine Vendor Advisory Board. No later than six months after the anniversary of the closing, Oracle will create and fund a storage engine vendor advisory board, to provide guidance and feedback on MySQL development priorities and other issues of importance to MySQL storage engine vendors.

Two small gestures – but I bet the Oracle people tasked to interact with those boards will truly want to do the right thing for MySQL users. Engineers are like that – they want to make things that actually work well.

9. MySQL Reference Manual. Oracle will continue to maintain, update and make available for download at no charge a MySQL Reference Manual similar in quality to that currently made available by Sun.

10. Preserve Customer Choice for Support. Oracle will ensure that end-user and embedded customers paying for MySQL support subscriptions will be able to renew their subscriptions on an annual or multi-year basis, according to the customer’s preference.

Small stuff.


17 Responses to “Oracle lifts the cloud hanging over MySQL storage engine vendors”

  1. Mike on December 14th, 2009 6:26 pm

    For 5 years Oracle will not assert the GPL license to force storage engine vendors to open their source code for implementing the APIs. So, they can’t ship a storage engine + MySQL, but they can implement the APIs.

    Two questions:

    1. Can any other body assert these claims under GPL, who else has standing?

    2. If these claims are not asserted for 5 years, do they lose the right to assert them after 5 years? I believe that with patents, knowingly allowing infringement can weaken your ability to enforce the patent against that infringement.

  2. Curt Monash on December 14th, 2009 7:08 pm

    1) I’d guess that Oracle has all the rights.

    2) I doubt that any kind of laches would apply when Oracle has a specific, clear, government-inspired reason for holding off. Besides, contracts tend to say things like “A failure to assert rights doesn’t preclude asserting them in the future.”

    Of course, I’m not a lawyer, even if I play on on the Internet. 😉

  3. Mike on December 14th, 2009 7:38 pm

    OK, now the real reason the 5-year thing is a non-starter. Who will buy a database and go through the implementation knowing that the ISV may have to pull it after 5 years? Or knowing that Oracle could sue the customer directly for infringement after 5 years? It seems to me that this makes tings worse. Oracle acknowledges that there is infringement, but they won’t crack down for 5 years. I would prefer they remain mute on the subject or make it eternal. The 5 year thing will kill the sales process.

  4. Curt Monash on December 14th, 2009 10:38 pm


    I agree the 5-year limit on storage engine contractual freedom should be scrapped. Please feel free to contact the EC and cite me as being on your side. But I’d suggest doing it ASAP …

  5. Mark Callaghan on December 15th, 2009 1:01 am

    Are we really talking about delaying the merger based on the interests of closed-source storage engine vendors? How is that in the public interest given the impact on Sun? How many customers are there for these storage engines?

  6. Curt Monash on December 15th, 2009 1:54 am

    Fewer than there would be if venture funding for the storage engine vendors hadn’t dried up in April. But that’s not the point.

    There are essentially three different MySQL markets or user types:

    1. Seriously high-end web companies, doing lots of scale-out. You are generally acknowledged to be one of the world’s leading experts on that stuff — and I’ll stop there.

    2. Extremely low-end users. For example, I’m a MySQL user solely because I run some WordPress blogs. For us, MySQL is an easily replaceable commodity.

    3. Wannabe enterprise users and the like. Those are the people who need something resembling a serious DBMS, but can get by with MySQL for now. They commonly need storage engines, whether InnoDB or Infobright or whatever. And without the assurance of a variety of storage engines being available to them in the future, they would be well-advised to transition away from relying on MySQL.

  7. Mark Callaghan on December 15th, 2009 12:11 pm

    That is the point. The EC is doing this to protect the public interest. What part of the MySQL-using public benefits from these storage engines?

    InnoDB, MyISAM, Heap and NDB are used in production. PBXT might join that group. None of these are at risk with respect to the need for an OEM license.

    Grouping InfoBright and InnoDB allows you to cast doubt on both when the OEM issue is limited to InfoBright and InfiniDB.

    I wish InfoBright and InfiniDB the best because they have good technology and have published some of their code.

  8. Mike on December 15th, 2009 2:23 pm

    The 5-year moratorium is a red herring. Why doesn’t Oracle just say fine, we release all copyright claims on the storage engine eternally? Is it in the public’s interest for Oracle to pick and choose which closed source storage engines they like?

    Mark, are you suggesting that only open source storage engines are in the public interest? Because past anti-trust reviews, especially outside of the software industry, have always addressed for profit competitors that were harmed.

    I am a big free market guy. Oracle paid for this right, they get the spoils. But if it is determined that this is in the public’s best interest, it should be done correctly.

  9. Curt Monash on December 15th, 2009 4:23 pm


    That’s how negotiations work. For MOST of the items on the list, a limited-time commitment is absolutely appropriate. The copyright paragraph is an exception. So now we’re pointing out Oracle needs to give ground there. That relieves pressure to give ground on other matters. 🙂


  10. Mark Callaghan on December 15th, 2009 4:28 pm


    I am suggesting that if the public isn’t running your code then delaying this merger on your behalf isn’t in the interest of the public. Delaying this has a huge cost for the business of Sun and some cost for MySQL.

    Have you suggested that you should not have to abide by the GPL while selling a closed-source product on top of MySQL? They own copyright on the code. If the OEM storage engine business is valuable, why should not they make a profit on that. Hopefully, some of that profit would go back into MySQL development.

  11. Curt Monash on December 15th, 2009 4:50 pm


    Classic anti-trust. If MySQL’s main DBMS business is MySQL, trust them to do what’s best for MySQL. If MySQL is owned by somebody else, namely Oracle, who has a different DBMS focus, don’t necessarily trust them to do what’s best for MySQL. That’s where the anti-trust analysis starts.

    When I was more confident Oracle couldn’t strangle the storage engine ecosystem, I thought there shouldn’t be an antitrust issue. Now that I’m not so sure, I’d like to see that one point taken care of before giving an antitrust OK.

    And by the way — if you’re implying that this whole problem is so small it shouldn’t have taken many months to resolve, I agree completely.

  12. Mike on December 15th, 2009 6:28 pm

    Mark, The EC isn’t basing their decision on my company or any other specific company. They are looking into their crystal ball to foresee future problems. If it was all about my company, we’re a gnat on the elephant’s ass. I’m quite balanced on the whole thing. A deal needs to get done to help solidify the future of the products and the people at Sun. I’m not a player in this game, don’t put it on me. Oracle made the offer and they are playing their hand against the EC.

    I have no problem with Sun taking a cut for the value they provide. If we bundled with MySQL, it would be reasonable to pay them a royalty that is standard across the industry, without favoritism. FRAND or Fair Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory is a licensing model espoused by the EC for example.

  13. Mark Callaghan on December 15th, 2009 10:03 pm


    Storage engine vendors never had from Sun what they are demanding from Oracle. OEM deals were not easy to negotiate — note there is not standard storage engine OEM deal on the web at They were not for an unlimited duration. They all required money going back to Sun for support and licensing.

    If I am putting anything on you, it is based on your comments earlier in this thread. You express concern that Oracle’s commitments are not enough for storage engine vendors. I agree with you on that. But those terms appear to be better than storage engine vendors have received in the past.

    Regardless of what you think about this, the EC appears to be concerned about the treatment of application vendors and storage engine vendors who need an OEM deal. While I think there might be a lot of consumers for apps bundled with MySQL I don’t think there are many for OEM storage engines.

    Therefore, I think any concern for the welfare of storage engine vendors by the EC is misplaced given the damage done to Sun and MySQL during this prolonged period of uncertainty. The public suffers much more from that. The server market is beginning to recover for many server vendors. It probably is not for Sun.

  14. Fred Holahan on December 16th, 2009 4:48 pm

    I have no stake in this either way, but will offer a view. I don’t believe the EC should be trying to expand the rights of storage engine vendors, per se. The EC should, on the other hand, want to ensure that the MySQL ecosystem has the ability (and motivation) to drive engine-level innovation for the benefit of MySQL consumers, mitigating the risk that Oracle may not have similar intentions. If MySQL storage engine vendors benefit from this assurance, so be it. Oracle understands and agrees; that’s why they’ve proposed GPL non-assertion. It’s a good idea, but it’s essentially emasculated by Oracle’s proposed five year carve-out. Drop the carve-out and the MySQL community will have achieved a significant hedge against future bad behaviors.

  15. Mike on December 16th, 2009 5:23 pm

    I have to agree with Fred. If Oracle chooses to charge for bundling storage engines, no problem. If they choose to enforce copyright (after 5 years) against the use of a public API, that seems like it would be more of a weapon that could be used in an anti-competitive manner. Drop the 5-year carve-out and let’s get this thing done for the good of all involved.

    And Mark, I am not “demanding” anything from Oracle. The EC is making the demands on behalf of users who would benefit from a more competitive marketplace. I am simply providing insights about what I believe will achieve the EC’s objectives, satisfy Oracle and get this done. The relative weighting of the cost/benefit of their demands of Oracle is something that the EC and Oracle control, we are merely watching from the sidelines.

    Maybe we should discuss this over beers 😉

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