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Publisher / Editor @ CloudAve and Enterprise Irregulars. Industry Observer, Blogger, Startup Advisor, Program Chair @ SVASE (Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs). In his "prior life" spent 15 years immersed in the business of Enterprise Software, at management positions with SAP, IBM, Deloitte, KPMG and the like.

52 responses to “Internal Email on Why a Software Company Migrates Away from MySQL”

  1. schultzter

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t get his e-mail. He’s saying they should move from one GPL licensed database (MySQL) to another (Ingres)?! But he seems to hate the GPL?!

  2. anonymous

    Stallman’s view is illogical. By his interpretation, a shell script would be GPL as a result of using GPL-licensed shell utilities, and your website’s javascript would be GPL if it made AJAX calls to another website that uses GPL anywhere behind the hood. Stallman’s view is inconsistent: he probably would say he doesn’t believe these things, even though they’re no different from, say, making SQL queries over ODBC.

    Copyright just doesn’t allow that.

    I’ve always found it sadly amusing that one of Stallman’s implicit goals from the beginning has been to expand copyright law, to allow copyright holders to place new restrictions and ultimately to hold more power over what others can do. That’s a strange agenda for a proponent of “free software”, and one he’d probably never admit, even to himself.

    You can use MySQL in non-GPL applications. You might get sued anyway, because the copyright holder is famously litigious, and you might not want to spend the time and money defending yourself, even if you’d win in the end, but that’s a different issue.

    Fortunately, it’s all irrelevant. Postgresql has always been a far better product.

    1. Rui Miguel Silva Seabra

      Stallman’s view is illogical. By his interpretation, a shell script would be GPL as a result of using GPL-licensed shell utilities, and your website’s javascript would be GPL if it made AJAX calls to another website that uses GPL anywhere behind the hood. Stallman’s view is inconsistent: he probably would say he doesn’t believe these things, even though they’re no different from, say, making SQL queries over ODBC.

      Copyright just doesn’t allow that.

      Your view appears to contradict years of essays written and published by Richard Stallman himself.

      Your view appears to contradict years of conference talks, where repeatedly he refuted and corrected such claims.

      Your view appears to be illogical (at best), as logic would require you to acknowledge all the documentation contradicting your statements.

    2. Awat Saha

      And this person is just one of those that uses lies and insults to reinforce his weak arguments.

      Nothing in this anonymous comment is true. The GPL doesn’t places more restrictions than normal copyright law.

      To use software under the GPL you, the user, don’t even have read and/or agree with the license. The license only comes into effect when distributing modified copies.

      There’s abundant information on the web.

      Don’t succumb to peer pressure. Make your own mind.

  3. Dan Grossman

    All that Twitter buzz is coming from very confused, uninformed people. MySQL Classic Edition is a commercial binary licensed only for use as an embedded database in other software. How many of those people tweeting have ever purchased a MySQL binary for distribution?

    It has nothing to do with MySQL Community Server, the free GPL product they and everyone else uses, which has not changed at all since the Oracle acquisition. Nor will it, since Oracle agreed to maintain the dual-licensing scheme Sun used until at least 2015 as part of its EU negotiations before the acquisition.

  4. thomasz

    Wow, so much self confidence and so little knowledge in one tiny email…

  5. The Cranky Product Manager

    thomasz, can you elaborate on what is incorrect about that email? I am doing some research and came upon this article… I don’t follow the issues regularly enough to know what is inaccurate in this article. I’m trying to evaluate whether I should similarly guide my product away from using MySQL toward an open source alternative like Postgres.

    I appreciate your help!

    1. Awat Saha

      Both MySQL and Postgres are open source and free software.

      You should choose the product based on a series of factors most importantly technical factors. The licensing matters is problem of lawyers.

      If you’re developing a completely proprietary product, then perhaps you should evaluate proprietary database offerings instead of open source ones!

      If your product is open source, then any product with a open source license, as recognized as such by the FSF ( or by the OSI (, will do.

      As I said choose based on technical factors not based on the FUD (,_uncertainty_and_doubt) from this alleged e-mail from an imaginary CEO!

    2. Awat Saha

      Also, please don’t trust the opinions of someone who hides beyond anonymity!

      If you want to know more about Richard Stallman just search the web and you will find more information. He has traveled the world giving conferences and speeches. He is known worldwide. Much more know and respected than this CEO will ever be!

  6. Dominique De Vito

    I agree with this email, and I am fond of this theological lecture.

    And beyond that, I think MySQL creators shot even themselves into the foot with dual licensing, and that’s I have written:
    “Dual licensing has a bad influence on MySQL future (more generally, on open source too)”

    And later:
    “Forget MySQL, PostgreSQL is rising!”

  7. Josh

    There are plenty of reasons to drop MySQL, but having to pay for a license to use InnoDB isn’t one of them:

    It seems like this “smart CEO” is either an ignorant buffoon or desperate to justify a painful migration to disgruntled employees.

  8. Ricardo Fernández

    MySQL “Classic” Edition has _NEVER_ used InnoDB before.

    MySQL Community Edition use InnoDB and _STILL_ has InnoDB.

    People just read what they want to read. Oracle haven’t drop InnoDB from MySQL you are just reading the site the way you like (and it seems you never have checked the site before).

  9. Andriy Gerasika

    re: “But an app written on top of MySQL, even though it connects over the wire and a JDBC driver, has to be GPL”
    This is FUD.

    GPL license does not allow linking, i.e. calling within process boundaries. Calling GPL from another process is ok.

    1. mario

      That’s true and in accordance with copyright law and the GNU GPL. Yet it is ultimatively the copyright holder who can impose further restrictions. Those extra restrictions won’t hold water in court, but it might be an extensive mistake. MySQL is not licensed under the GNU GPL anymore, it’s subject to the Oracle GPL terms and conditions.

      1. Jose_X

        You are correct about that not holding water.

        I believe the GPL is copyrighted by the FSF not by Oracle. If Oracle doesn’t like the FSF’s license that the FSF allows others to use with their products, then Oracle should not have used that license (or not have bought Sun Micro thinking they could change the license interpretation around of the license Sun decided to use).

        The FSF is fairly clear about attempts by others to impose more conditions.

  10. Jesper Monsted

    No matter what GPL allows or doesn’t allow, moving towards a more open license makes a lot of sense. Now, if only we could convince Linus and a few other big players to change to the BSD license…

    1. Vlad003

      Just a small note. It’s practically impossible for Linux to change to BSD because of the number of people that are copyright holders. Linus did this purposefully from the beginning.

    2. Awat Saha

      More open than what?

      What’s it that the GPL is denying you or any of the hundreds of million of users worldwide that are using products based on Linux?

    3. Jose_X

      As a software developer, I absolutely do not want one strong competitor taking all the software we all built and leveraging it against us all to dominate by closing it up and/or by using copyright laws against us with what they write. Microsoft has shown they know how to leverage proprietary trade secrets and copyright law to dominate market after market. Monopolists destroy opportunities for most others.

      For most software I write and consider extending, I want to make sure it is copyleft. If you don’t like the GPL, don’t use it. It’s very simple. Create your own software if you can’t handle sharing back like everyone else did and insist instead on placing yourself on a biased playing field. I was not placed here on this planet to help you milk your customers and drive most small developers out of business by leveraging what we contribute against us.

      Red Hat and many others have shown that you can make lots of money while providing a product where the source code is open source. Charging for your time and skill leads to competition. Trying to mint proprietary money using what others openly give is abusive.

      Write your own software if you want to be abusive.

  11. hybridweb

    “…Now, do you want another theological lecture from me on why we should get out of Java next? (One word: Oracle).”

    Two things:

    1. Yes, I personally do want another such lecture.

    2. Move from Java to what, out of curiosity (I’m neck-deep in .Net-land right now, kind of liking it, but always looking for alternative better ways)

    1. Awat Saha

      “…Now, do you want another theological lecture from me on why we should get out of Java next? (One word: Oracle).”

      Two things:

      1. Yes, I personally do want another such lecture.

      So, you’re not satisfied by his ignorance in business matters, by his ignorance in law matters nor by his ignorance software licensing matters, you also want to be “educated” by ignorance in religion matters?

  12. Ignacio Bergmann

    The problem with a license like BSD is that you’re not required to give back any improvement that you have made to the software. So you could use it as a base for a commercial product and give nothing back to the project.

    I’m not talking about linking, which is allowed by both BSD and LGPL. That’s why GNU/Linux uses the latter (as it solves both problems), as MySQL should in my opinion.

    1. Jose_X

      Linux uses the GPL.

      Inter-process communication is allowed by the GPL and LGPL to the extent your work truly is not a derivative of the L/GPL work. This means you should only run the L/GPL software through what are defined as public interfaces (or using whatever other limitations are provided by the author of that work) so that technically you could replace that software with other software also fulfilling the same interfaces without experiencing any significant changes to your application.

      Dynamic linking is likely not allowed by the GPL, but opinions vary and the details of the context will likely matter. The key might be if the app + linked GPL component forms a “derivative work” as per copyright law.

      In contrast, the LGPL (if the linked software behaves normally) allows dynamic linking without problems. The idea is that this is OK if the LGPL “library” binary exists independent of the linked app, eg, if you can replace the library with another version without unexpected changes in behavior in your app.

      The LGPL goes even further and allows static linking without having to reveal your source code when you distribute but only if you provide the source code of the LGPL library and a way for the user to be able to change such LGPL source code, compile these changes, and then re-attach it to your binaries. If you don’t provide that capability then you can’t static link to LGPL and also hide your main app’s source code.

      The kernel is a unique piece of software on the machine. There might be some debate as to whether you can run an application on a GPL kernel, but those creating Linux believe that the way their software behaves, running an application through the particular public Linux interface mechanism, is acceptable and does not constitute a derivative work that would be bound by the GPL source code distribution restrictions. Remember that the kernel runs in a higher privilege level and treats you application as data and in fact defines even if your application will run and when.

      The summary: If you want to hide your app’s source, don’t interact too closely with GPL software. Using public inter-process communication or a userland/kernel may be fine but you should check with the GPL author(s). On the other hand, you can link with LGPL software in almost any way you want. You can even link to it statically if you adhere to various restrictions.

      I cannot vouch for the accuracy of what I just stated. I am not a lawyer, and have not even read the GPL or LGPL that carefully and entirely.


  13. Dimitrios Mistriotis

    I think there is something that need to be said here. That not many companies would be a able to conduct “big” investments just to produce something that could be copied from one of their competitors.

    Postgre and BSD unix have both been deployed (initially) from academia (if I am not wrong) so it’s OK to leave them open for the public. Which organisation has the money to produce a Java like ecosystem, just to leave it on the open for free?

    That’s why I am very interested to read the follow up article (and hope I’m wrong, but don’t think so…)

    1. Jose_X

      Red Hat releases their source code as open source all the time. They also leverage the huge amount of open code. They make money by providing various services to their customers and not simply by writing software and then forgetting about it. Red Hat is not in the business of locking their customers in.

      Many people use open source to help their business and they can afford to open their code changes since that can simplify maintainability (and allow for peer review). Google is an example of a company that leverages open source a lot and does contribute back in significant ways, but they still keep many secrets with code they don’t distribute outside their servers. Google doesn’t want to help competitors to their core business, and they probably feel that the key is in the software/hardware details. Anyway, Google does release a lot of other source code.

      If you are willing to pay for a proprietary license, the existence of a GPL version (like with mysql) only adds value. If you fear price upgrades, how is that different than with any other proprietary license? In the mysql case, at least you know you can debug the application more easily, help improve it, and ultimately, if necessary, modify your business model and release your source code. In any case, you have more, not less, than with any other typical proprietary license.

  14. Leif Andersen

    To be honest, I never really saw why RMS thinks linking to code (and not releasing your code as GPL) is a violation to the GPL. Sure, I suppose the #include line could be thought of one, as it’s replaced by the header file by the compiler, but just linking to a piece of code shouldn’t require you to follow the code’s licence. (Distributing it with your package, yes, but just linking? no). It’s like referring to someone else’s paper in one of their papers (and making a small quote even). It’s not a copyright violation to do that. So unless putting a bibliography in your paper is illegal, I don’t see why it’s illegal to link to someone else’s code in your code.

    1. Jose_X

      It comes down to how a court would interpret “derivative work”.

      With a narrow interpretation by the court and if your software does significantly more than the linked library, you might be correct. With a broad interpretation of derivative work by the court, you probably aren’t. Remember that your application is not running by itself on the raw hardware. It is using the characteristics of the linked library (and of the kernel).

      Some might even consider that when you run software on a computer, you have created a derivative work of the computer.

      As much as I value the GPL, I support a narrow interpretation of derivative work. That is the most fair by far, and a broad definition of derivative work very likely would lead to a law that does not “promote the progress of science and the useful arts” (in the US) while abridging free expression rights.

      I have a problem with proprietary software used to control markets (all proprietary software does this to an extent). To that end, and as long as copyright gets in the way of reverse engineering and of us making as many copies as we want and modifying them as we like, I would even support a license more strict than the GPL, at least in order to help neutralize monopolies and very powerful market players. Software is very important. It’s amazing all the things it can do behind your back without leaving a trace once you connect it to the Internet and provide an update mechanism and are willing to use obfuscation and local and remote data storage.


  15. Florian

    Actually you do not have to pay money to use GPL MySQL in an application you ship. However you will have to ship your sourcecode as well, licensed as GPL. Now I understand why you might not want to do this. However, this is your choice, not oracles, not stallmanns. Yours and yours alone. You decided you’d rather want to pay money then make your applications source accessible to it users, thereby guaranteeing that you lock your users into a piece of software they cannot own, or modify if your fabulous company ever goes belly-up.

    1. Ben

      I think this is a good point. It’s definitely frustrating not to be able to use such free software for work purposes, but if the people who spent their own free time to build the software feel strongly about making software free, then we can express our gratitude by either a.) contributing to a cause they believe in or b.) shelling out for an exception.

      It may not be a romantic idea to pay your option b money to Oracle, but the software can still encourage more free software and that’s what the creators wanted.

  16. Paul Baclace

    While slaying vendor lock-in dragons, a backhand swipe is taken at Java here.

    Why move away from Java? Java is a general computing language known to millions. You are not suggesting people move away from SQL, so why throw FUD at Java.?

    MySQL, Postgres, Oracle, SQLserver implement SQL.

    SunJDK, OpenJDK, JRockit, J9 implement Java.

    Databases have a data migration barrier to transition that computing languages do not have. Specifically, moving an accumulated, in-use body of data to a different data format requires much coordination, cooperation, and time. This is why Oracle is so rich.

    1. Jose_X

      Given how an operating system loaded with features does more than a database (with many more dependencies and potential undocumented bugs/features), we can also anticipate that Microsoft will be very rich as well.

      There are serious problems with languages and any other significantly complex software that is closed source. The main issue is how much you create data using those tools and if those tools make it easy to migrate or not. Look how much work has gone into the wine project to allow people to use a given Windows apps on it without changed behavior? Also, migrating some Windows apps from source code to run on Linux might also be complex for a small party to undertake. It depends on which interfaces were used and how public these are in describing their semantics accurately (vs if you got the app to work by trial and error).

      With Java, you are talking about using a standardized language+environment that has public specs and reference source code for just about every component and was designed and defined in an attempt to be made cross-platform. On the other hand, it is a very large platform.

      It also matters if you have the source code of the application.

      Also, if there would be a near clone of Oracle’s software, people might migrate; however, Oracle probably supports their software to some degree and charges for this as well (so you would factor in the support costs). See

  17. Kevin Bowling

    This is one of the stupidest things I’ve read in a long time.

    Oracle has no say in what we do or don’t do with the GPL code and we can continue using that for eternity. If you use MySQL in some GPL incompatible way (i.e. buying a commercial license), how the hell is that a problem with the GPL? You BOUGHT in, both figuratively and literally, to that alternative license at purchase time. If they have a way to change it after the fact, fire your legal team now. Otherwise: pay up, migrate to a different solution (i.e. don’t embed), or participate in the community.

    And fallout aside, this only affects people who are embedding MySQL into their code or distributing it with hidden changes. I don’t have much sympathy for people doing either of these since MySQL is a pretty crappy embeddable DB.

  18. Awat Saha

    So much ignorance…

    A opinion based not on his interpretation of the GPL and copyright law, of better yet, of his lawyers, but on repeating propaganda, ignorant, uninformed, sensationalistic propaganda made by others, who themselves know nothing about the GPL and copyright law.

    The fact that he is just repeating propaganda is clear by his linking the GPL and the Free Software Movement to “religion”. This is a common characteristic of those who whine about the fact they can’t be parasites without penalty.

    The GPL and the Free Software Movement is both factual and reasonable. There’s no superstition or arbitrary interpretation. The GPL was drafted by lawyers and has been vindicated in court in Europe and other parts of the world.

    The purpose of the GPL is Freedom.

    This person wants a “Free Lunch”. He neither wants to contribute back any changes that he (or his company) has made, nor does he wants to pay the financial penalty for having an exemption.

    He wants to deny other peoples’ rights. Pretend they don’t have any. Insult them. They offer him a gift and he wants to turn around and spit in their faces!

    To make his point he uses not facts, but character assassination by association. By associating the Free Software Movement with religion. Because we all know that all religious persons are evil!


    That he allowed that such ignorant and insulting missive to be published so that anyone can see his ignorance and lack of character!

    That the person of this “blog” accepted to publish this is even more outrageous…

    Mr Zoli Erdos you wrote:

    “What I want to do this morning is to take this opportunity to publish an internal email from a smart software CEO who instructed his teams to migrate away from MySQL several months ago.”

    This CEO is not smart. He is a fool and a coward! None of you had the strength of character to publish this rubbish under your own name.

    If this is your own opinion on the matter you should publish it under your own name. But you readily admit that you know nothing about such matters: “I don’t pretend to be the Open Source expert”. But this didn’t stop you from pretending by publishing this ignorant and insulting e-mail from an alleged CEO!

    Strength of character! Stallman has it. You, Mr Zoli Erdos, and your imaginary CEO don’t have it!

    1. mario

      Awat, that’s not a very charming way to write a rebuttal. And it’s not a good portrayal of the Free software community if you use insults and conjectures to righten any perceived slander. It’s also prety denominating that you basically deny everyone else freedom of speech here, just because they want to express an opposing view point.

  19. Edwin Ironshoes

    The fact is that the essence of the GPL is “If you take, you must also give back.” As Awat correctly pointed out, the GPL gives maximum freedoms to end users and developers, which usually are not features that proprietary software vendors favor. Restrictions on developers kick in with re-distribution. If you use GPL software in house, no worries. If you want to take the work of other people and profit from in it some way, or modify and re-distribute it, then you have some hoops to jump through. And again as Awat said, if you want to release a proprietary product, don’t base it on GPL code. Just because you want something doesn’t mean your’re entitled to it.

    The quoted email makes all sort of moral judgments, insults Richard Stallman, blames him for what Oracle is doing, and it is factually inaccurate. It’s quite the hatchet job. Do keep that in mind when lecturing on civility, please. It would have been better to simply present the advantages and disadvantages of various software licenses for various uses; sliming RMS is the main point of the email, and that’s just plain silly and useless.

    1. mario

      I believe the article wasn’t about the merits and demerits of the GNU GPL. These are well understood and there’s no need to reeducate everyone. The topic was Oracles interpretation of said license, specifically extending its influence over network traffic. In effect Oracle bends the GPL into another AGPL-like license, so the whole philosophic CEO mail is offtopic in itself.

      However there’s no need to insinuate that slandering was the main point of that mail. It was objectively an explanation and decision reasoning. (But btw, people that make moral judgements about others should not be exempted themselves.)

  20. Atin Garg

    Zoli. What you have seen with BSD is a monster like Apple. And there is NO Linus’ interpretation of GPL. He simply uses GPL2. Please be informed before spreading the FUD. I am sorry to say but you are clueless about everything.

  21. Another

    Soo, about that CC licenced picture you are using. Nicked directly from WP.

  22. Doodah

    Great article! Your point regarding fanatical adherence to good behavior morphing into evil was spot on. Anyone who has raised kids or managed people knows you have to turn a blind eye every now and then and let them have their fun. 🙂

  23. W. Anderson

    I have no expertise on GPL/LGLP or the BSD licenses. However , one cannot expect me or anyone to accept the viability or truthfulness of the article if the CEO referenced is not names.

    It is always possible that a “fictitious” CEO was proposed to support any point or focus that the article writer is attempting to put forth. Therefore, one must take the article claims with a grain of salt, since no definite conclusions can be made without necessary “facts” and good technical legal understanding, which many commenters have done.

  24. Krishnan Subramanian

    Folks, I think some of you have misunderstood that Zoli is opposed to Open Source / Free Software way. He is not. He is just reproducing what he has come across in his private discussions with a SaaS providers. He did it for the sake of having healthy discussion on the fate of MySQL and how it impacts other SaaS provider. If the letter appears to be a bit slander on RMS/GPL for some, it is definitely not Zoli’s fault either.

    @Another, since Zoli has no problems with the idea of sharing, there is nothing wrong in using a cc image. Let us have the discussion rational.

  25. Krishnan Subramanian

    Plus, for anyone who thinks that it was Zoli’s opinion wrapped over by a fictitious CEO avatar, you are just being childish. No one in CloudAve hide behind anonymity to offer our views (however crazy it may be). The only anonymous opinions come from some commenters and not the authors. First it is an internal email from a company. Second, most CEO’s don’t let their email go out in public with their name on it for strategic reasons. Finally, no company wants to put their future strategy discussions out in the public with their seal on it. Let us move away from the childish discussions into a rational discourse on whether there is merit in the arguments put forward by the person who wrote the email (forget it is from a CEO of a SaaS company for a moment and assume it is someone with an opinion).

  26. James in DC

    As for getting out of Java, I agree. But where should a Java developer go?

  27. pafipe

    So, about “BSD licensed sin”: is it to “sin all you like/want” and you’re OK as long as no one finds out?
    Is that really what Martin Luther was about?
    The problem with guilt by association is usually the domino effect.
    This CEO must be a follower of Crowley. “Do as thou wilt”

  28. ian

    BSD is a charter for selfish freeloaders.

  29. Sysadm1n

    How about a hint as to the identity of this Software CEO’s company? I’d be interested to take a look at his product line for possible GPL violations.

  30. Um

    Well, What BSD license really says is “Here, I am donating my work to the world! Go ahead people use my work; I never expect anything in return except attribution.”

    What the GPL licenses says is, “You my use my work, only you must pay me for it. My terms are that if you modify my work and give/sell a dirivative to others you have to make my work available to them in text, and you also have to make your work available to them in text — and you can’t restrict them from doing anything they want with that text.”

    So, GPL seems to me to be equitable — those that encourage BSD style, are trying to cheat others out of their work.

  31. eNtity

    Free software must be kept free, and GPL does just that. If companies want to get involved and want to make use of the (GPL licensed) free software by adding proprietary code on top (and sell it), then they must be prepared to pay for another type of license. Simple.

  32. Just Me

    @The Cranky Product Manager: A lot of things are incorrect about this e-mail.

    Others already pointed out that GPL does not impose copyleft because of interprocess communication, and Stallman is quite outspoken an insisting on this. It is a blatant lie to say the opposite.

    Also, there are no “Stallman view” and “Torvalds view” about the programs linking to the Linux kernel. Not only because the two do not differ on this topic, but also because most Linux programs do not link to the kernel, but to glibc – the GNU main library, which is under the control of Stallman. Guess what would be if that CEO email was anywhere near the truth.

    Last, but most important: that CEO obviously saw only one way of making money with the help of free software: offering a proprietary closed application on top of it. Any notion of selling your free software (think RedHat), dual license (think MySQL), giving away software and profiting from related services etc. seems to be completely lost on him. In fact, he screams against GPL despite that with it he is well able to do his only trick, proprietary shell around free software. This is not a position that he will base his business upon – just a position that he presents to the other people to push them to his means.

    What he wants is called “freeriding” – profiting from other people’s work without paying them or giving anything else back. Yes, the GPL mentality doesn’t accept it (despite that GPL allows it, if done properly). No wonder that he will drag the discussuon into religion, will heap lies over lies, etc. He knows that GPL attracts more developers than BSD, because most people like to contribute to the wellness of the others, but not to their greed. However, he doesn’t care. He paints GPL black with the hope that this will turn people away from it and to BSD-like licenses, thus giving him more opportunity to leech.

    In short: this is a crafted opinion, seeking to serve the needs of those who want to take, but never give back. I don’t think that he will really steer away of GPL (more developers often create better products). Sadly. Because the free software and its community will only be richier without people like him.