2009-05-13

Open Database Alliance founded

Monty Program Ab and Percona today launched the Open Database Alliance.

You can find the press release about it here.

This may be one of the most important steps in the history of MySQL and MariaDB.

Here follows my initial vision of the Open Database Alliance. Note that things may change slightly when we start defining the rules of the Alliance together with the Alliance members!

The Alliance will be a center and provide infrastructure for companies and individuals to develop, collaborate and do business around open source databases with MariaDB/MySQL as our initial focus.

The Alliance is intended to be a one-stop-shop for anything related to MariaDB/MySQL; By going to the Open Alliance web site (under construction) or contacting any member of the Alliance you should be able to buy any services, tools or software produced by any of the members of the Alliance.

This is actually close to the original vision that David Axmark and I had when we created MySQL. We planned to create a partner network where MySQL AB was a small technical company in the center with a lot of partners around us facing the large customers.

After I left Sun, people have suggested to me to create a new MySQL Ab: A big company that would do anything related to MySQL, like MySQL AB did. I didn't like this idea because for me, MySQL AB worked much better when we were less than 70 people. This time, I want do things differently: Create a small family oriented development company driven by excellence and have an alliance of companies that are closely working together. This way, we will be able to avoid some of the growing problems. There will of course be other problems in this new setup, but I am fully prepared to face them.

The vision is that the companies in the Alliance will be able to provide excellent service around the database:
  • Customer service according to customer needs. (E.g. now it is easy to buy development work for the MySQL/MariaDB server).
  • Specialized services, from different companies, to better fit customer needs.
  • Make it easy to find someone local to help you with your problems.
The intention is to get the companies in the Alliance to work closely together to get the benefit of each others' strengths and compensate for each others' weaknesses/holes in their service offerings. This will make us stronger, agile and more responsive than a single big company.

Early alliance member Arjen Lentz of Open Query (which also sponsors the OurDelta builds project) notes: "This alliance is an excellent step, showing the maturity, breadth and depth of expertise for MySQL related services."

During the next few months we will continue talking with other companies which join the Alliance and together create the rules under which the Alliance and its members will function.

The Alliance will consist of two types of companies:

1) Companies that provide clear benefits for the community that is using MariaDB:
  • Development of the MariaDB source code or related source code
  • Development of free tools around MariaDB
  • Enhancement the community using MariaDB
  • Publishing of articles and documentation about and around MariaDB
  • Development/help with builds, provide mirror space
  • Work on enhancing the Open Database Alliance
  • Infrastructure providers (open source) around MariaDB
  • And open source storage engine vendors
2) Companies that are not giving things back to the community, but provide services on and around MariaDB:
  • Training, support and consulting
  • Commercial tools
  • Other commercial services
  • Web site development
  • Datamining & Analytics
We are likely to have slightly different rules for these two types of companies as all companies that are joining the Alliance should bring something to the table.

Initially the Alliance will be a 'thin umbrella', but we are likely to soon hire some people for the Alliance to help work out the rules, better serve our members and provide marketing for Alliance members. The Alliance should also work to actively enhance and support the MariaDB community.

The benefit of joining the Alliance is you get a much closer relationship with the people working with and around MariaDB. You can also provide more for your customers as you get the power of all the other members around you.

I myself will continue spending most of my time in Monty Program Ab developing MariaDB and enhancing the community around it. I will work actively within the Alliance and, together with Peter Zaitsev and other active Alliance members, help with defining e.g. the rules of the Alliance.

Finally, we have been contacted by many entrepreneurs looking to set up new businesses to address opportunities in the MariaDB/MySQL market. This is exciting to see, since I believe there is plenty of room for many new players to join the movement. I encourage such individuals out there to reach out to my investment company Open Ocean, who might be able to help out with advisory and possibly also funding.

You can send your questions about the Alliance or a request to join the Alliance to alliance@askmonty.org

11 comments:

Derek M. Rodner said...

You can't have an Open Database Alliance without Postgres!

Mike Hogan said...

Monty, the world is not as black and white as your two-tier partnership would suggest. A company may contribute code to the core and may offer free tools alongside their commercial tools. What tier do they fall into? Or you might have partners who provide only paid consulting. They aren't selling tools, but they also aren't providing code, does this put them in the favored tier 1?

The basic business model for open source is to generate sufficient critical mass of users to drive upsell (consulting, support, add-ones, etc.). This is not a model that works for everyone. What about niche players? What if the total market for a specialized tool is say 500 users? This doesn't justify the investment under an open-source critical mass model. What about a company licensing code from someone that refuses to open source it? Bottom line, to create a healthy ecosystem you need to *actively* support various business models from the *start* on an equal basis with the free stuff.

Look, for example, at Joomla extensions. They are all promoted on equal footing, while the license model for each is merely one of the attributes (no bias either way). If you lock out the commercial guys, you effectively kill most development for niche markets (among others). I'm happy to discuss in more detail because I want you to be successful. I can also help address the legal constraints to the model I'm suggesting.

In the end, your success is tied to developing a better ecosystem, and the ecosystem will be very diverse, many shades of gray. As Microsoft has shown, support the ecosystem, you win. As Apple has shown (largely in the Mac's history) a better product with a weaker ecosystem loses.

Zak Greant said...

Hey Monty,

This is a good step. However, the site for the alliance should also make it clear that the alliance is broader in scope than just Maria/MySQL - people will get the wrong idea from the press release.

Muhammad Saeed Babar said...

The formation of Alliance is a welcome step in the right direction. The MySQL community is definitely worried over the future of the most popular open source database. Some of the worries may now be over.

Monty said...

To Zak:
The reason we decided on the name "Open Database Alliance" was to be able to include companies and people working on all other open source database in the Alliance.

This is work in progress. We will make this clear on the Alliance web site ASAP.

Robert Hodges said...

Speaking for Continuent, one of the companies planning to join, I really like the idea of getting this to work first with MariaDB/MySQL then opening it up to other databases. (Drizzle anybody?!) As Monty implies there will be some back and forth to work effectively with the existing early participants.

Also, to address comments from @Mike, the proposed approach seems *better* for niche players as it will allow them to tap into opportunities as well as allies from the entire community.

FakeAmelia said...

How many times can Monty sell MySQL?

Peter said...

Hi ..

I have one concern what I fear could soon be a critical concern. This concern relates to *documentation*.

The problem is that MySQL documentation is not GPL-licensed. That is - or should be - a problem for everybody distributing 'forked' MySQL code.

As long as forks were minor patches (like the popular ones from Google, Percona etc.) this was not a big problem. It was possible to published a small document stating that this server build in identical to MySQL x.y with the following *additions (blahblah), *modifications(blihblih) and *omitions (bluhbluh). As long as patches were changin server internals that was OK.

But I think that in a short time (1-2 years) we will now see 'forkes' differing so much from the offical MySQL line that this documentation concept (offial MySQL docs + an additional document) will be a pain!

Best would be of course if MySQL/Sun/Oracle would license the MySQL socs under same licensing model as the server itself. I do not know if it is realistic.

Any comments?

Peter Laursen
Webyog

Zak said...

Peter,

Documentation can be rewritten. I have some work that I can likely contribute.

I'd bet that other MySQL authors may also be able to work with their publishers towards this end.

Monty said...

About how many times one can sell MySQL:

If you have read my previous blog posts, me leaving Sun and starting Monty Program Ab and the Open Database Alliance has nothing to do with any desire to sell MySQL again.

If nothing else, The hacking business model and the way we work with the community should make it clear that Monty Program Ab is not a company that is created to be sold. It's a company created to ensure the MySQL project can survive and that the MySQL core people don't disappear from the MySQL community.

It was not I who sold MySQL; It was MÃ¥rten and the MySQL board. After the sale, my shareholder agreement with MySQL Ab was over and I was free to do whatever I wanted.

I did however join Sun, because I thought Sun would be able to fix the broken development processes in the MySQL project and recreate a working developer community for it. I also hoped Sun would be able to create a good home for the MySQL core people. In the end, after trying my best for almost one year to fix things from the inside, I had to conclude that Sun was not able to do any of the above. The only action left for me was to quit Sun and try to save the project and the people from the outside.

I don't know about you, but when people start calling you regularly telling you they don't like their work and they intend to quit soon and you tell their managers about it but the managers ignore the problem, you don't have many choices left if you want to continue working with your colleagues.

The simple fact is one can't own an open source project. One can control it by controlling the people which are leading and developing it. When a company doesn't take good care of their employees and those employees start to leave the company and work on the project elsewhere, that company has lost control of the project.

The answer to your question is: One time.
However, you can work on an open source project from anywhere.

Stewart Smith said...

r.e. Documentation: It would be good if we could use/develop some automated tools to help. It seems logical to have something that takes sql_yacc.yy and a documentation file and melds them together (I for one *hate* DocBook style end-user comments in code... makes it near impossible to follow the code).
We could then have simple rules that pull the right documentation for the right DB server, while having a common area for things that are common (vast majority of DML is, as are things like options for storage engines, how the engines work etc).

A CC or FDL license would also be useful in this case as it would allow packaging of documentation, modifications to include in GUI apps etc.

(also, having multiple databases under ODBA I think would be excellent as we do all have common ground and a central point to help collaboration between all of us could be useful)