Freedom’s Choice

Today is the opening day of the MySQL User Conference – so I thought I’d describe a recent customer interaction related to the acquisition.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting the Chief Information Officer of a large commercial institution. He had with him the company’s Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Security Officer (known as the “see-so”), and a series of lieutenants from various parts of their (large) development organization.

The Sun team had spent the day reviewing our progress together, and was finishing up with a product roadmap presentation. From what I sensed, it’d been a good day, so when I arrived, it was mostly to say thanks for the business, and ensure everyone had my contact info in the event I could help out going forward.

We had just closed the acquisition of MySQL, so before I wrapped up, I asked, “And would you like a quick update on the newest addition to our family, MySQL?”

The CIO responded categorically with “we don’t run MySQL, we run [name withheld to protect the proprietary].” The CISO said, “We can’t just let developers download software off the net, you know, we’ve got regulation and security to worry about.” The CTO smiled. Everyone else appeared to be sitting on their hands. I was going to leave it at that. Thanks for the business.

Until a (diplomatically) assertive Sun sales rep piped up, “Um… no, I connected with a buddy of mine over at MySQL, and had him check – you’ve downloaded MySQL more than 1,300 times in the last twelve months.”

After a profoundly awkward silence, one of the individuals from their internal development team piped up, “Actually, everybody uses it. Why bother hassling with license agreements when MySQL’s got you covered. We’re stoked you bought them.”

Awkward silences aside, we’ve now got a very productive engagment with the customer around delivering commercial support on a global basis to what’s turned out to be the most popular database inside their development shop. They’re finding more and more applications for MySQL, and more ways to save significant time and money in moving toward the future.

And that experience – of a CIO not knowing how ubiquitous and valuable free software has become to their organization – isn’t atypical. In fact, it’s the norm, and a divide we’re gently trying to bridge.

Opportunity’s everywhere.

So is free and open software.

They might even travel in pairs.


Filed under General

42 responses to “Freedom’s Choice

  1. Monty’s T-Shirt says it all!
    "My Free Software Runs Your Company!"

  2. I read on open source yesterday. After reading these posts I was curious and read ‘A General Introduction’ by Kenneth Wong and Phet Sayo. Though it was quiet clear that big organisations pay for support. I was a bit confused about the number of individuals who use these applications. I have always seen my son constantly download these applications. I used to think that these are in someway inferior to the Microsoft products we buy. Now it seems I was wrong as I came to know that these are no viruses fabricated for Linux. This is really amazing. The mind set is that free things might not be good or mayeven cause trouble.
    Next, I wondered what will these companies gain when young children are stuck to them like leech using and updating every application just for the heck of it. I had this huge issue with my son’s styler thingie that would take ages to upload. Now I think I know, these children who will be young adults in 4-5 years will be so used to these open source systems that this will turn the tide against the previous economy. Right? Still trying to grasp, actually am loving this as there is idle time, projects are yet to come by and reading all these interesting blogs is amazing. We can see future being shaped here. It seems future will be more about giving than taking. A wonderful concept back from the absolutely capitalistic society to a community oriented approach. Actually we can’t afford to work any other was as this is the only way when the widening gaps in economies can be filled. There is a kind of saturation point that economy has reached, next stage might be the civil war like scenario as few hoard maximum resourses. . There is something wrong with this appliction today, as you type the text is being hidden by the Search button and another tab. You approach is the right approach the stocks will finally syrocket, don’t worry all blessings are with you!

  3. Tobias

    Let me share this:
    The project team was invited to join a steering committee meeting to understand how that committee works.
    We had to describe the architecture of that new solution, too. When we finished with a typical J2EE stack on Linux a member of the board of directors goes "Linux? Can we really trust that open source stuff?".
    Luckily we had a guy from operations in the meeting answering with "Well, our SAP system runs on about 50 nodes running Linux."

  4. timely

    Guerrilla IT, Embracing the Superuser?
    from the user perspective, but it’s all in the name of getting the job done. Anyway you can. It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission, and all that.

  5. Good for the quick thinking sales rep.
    Know all about those meetings.
    I was banned from those.
    Apparently too inquisitive.
    Thumbs up for MYSQL, ‘pegged another paper which turned out to be already pegged’.

  6. Very interesting — I think a lot of the software engineers "on the floor" in many corporations can relate to this scenario… πŸ™‚

  7. In a company I used to work for we wrote a goods movement handling system in a week with Java and a PostgreSQL backend. It worked flawlessly, but the moronic IT manager decided that because we’d bought Sybase we had to standardise on that, so we spent another three weeks trying to get the same stability and performance out of Sybase and failed miserably, yet the new version was approved instead. And that is why I work in a small company with no bureaucracy now! πŸ™‚

  8. Rocky

    Hi Jon,
    For years Sun Micro promoted that engineered systems were more reliable and more secure than separate systems. Hence, we heard say we are Sun MicroSYSTEMS and I agree with that concept.
    How can separate database, middleware, and application stack from Sun compete with the companies (i.e., Oracle and IBM) that optimize their individual layers to work together and with improved security.
    I do not see how open source software can compete with a pre-engineered stack. If Sun is going to work on integrating your OS, middle ware then it is really becoming more proprietary than open source wouldn’t you say?
    I still do not understand your business model. I believe open source will be trumped by open architectures. It appears that Sun management disagrees. Can you elaborate as to why?

  9. software, like love, shuld be free. πŸ™‚

  10. That’s a hilarious story, and also very telling. So much open source software has just worked its way into the datacenter and the desktop without there being some push from the top… the very people who describe open source as a "flash in the pan" are using it more and more.

  11. Great story again about open source, speaking of opportunities, thanks to ZFS being open source, we can now offer our customers enterprise grade diskstorage instead of expensive grade storage.

  12. William R. Walling

    "Not surprising as businesses throughout this globe are blissfully ‘locked in’ by their existing IT vendors hardware, services and software offerings."
    Regrettably, said vendors are content to observe these businesses fail rather than suggest alternate wares that could aid them at this time of need.
    Nice the see your ‘Project Looking Glass’ desktop paradigm about to enjoy GLOBAL notoriety as standard fare within a ‘brown’ colored (background) environment.
    EXCELLENCE and INNOVATION trumps all pretenders …

  13. Blog are goods for every one where we get all information we needed nice job keep it up !

  14. Frank

    I think your speech was good. You had some good material and i like what you talked about until you spoke about Africa.
    >>> In Africa, a bank is giving mobile phones, to allow folk to increase wealth! The wealth is in the network, it can’t be stolen anymore.
    Do you really think that African people need cell phone to increase their wealth? Industrial countries are stealing their natural resources while they’re starving and all we give them are cell phones. I almost stood up in the audience this morning, i was about to tell you that if i were an African man with a family starving in Africa, I would probably feel really insulted and mad.
    So yes, that 500 Tera Flops is amazing but let’s be honest it was not built for free (The $59 million award, which covers the $30 million system and four years of operating costs) ( was apparently paid thru US Tax dollar (National Science Foundation).
    I’m surprised the oil companies, which makes billions of profit a year, can’t invest in few like these for the "good" of the students and the good of the planet. (maybe find a solution or simulate a way to get rid of poverty in the world).
    Having said that, i would agree with what you said about the open source movement. I think we’re about to see some accelerations and Microsoft will probably have to rethink its business model.

  15. Jonathan,
    the last link in this post links to an old article from you that contains the hint to Boeing Connexion. Sadly, Lufthansa long ago had to abandon it (my guess: for cost reasons). So, with the upcoming new possibilities of Cell-Phones on Planes (the EU just finished the regulations!), and with more clever devices (like the iPhone, which was CLOSED source until recently), we might still see many applications in planes and many open source tools, but I think, we can learn from that, that not everything works out as we like it…
    Still, I love closed open source (or how shall I name that?), because open source done by a company still adds valuable things to open source, like better source control, more and better over all QA, and, very important, service contracts for those that want them.

  16. Gunther Walther

    It is great to see SUN pushing MySql further. What disappointed me a bit was that the licensing terms for JDBC driver Connector/J were not changed. It is difficult to understand why there is a free (=freedom to choose your license for your own giveaway application) SQL DB, a free Java stack and then the database connector forces GPL on you if you add it to your application. To get a glimpse of the issue google "download mysql jdbc driver" and see how many software producers have to force their customers to do essentially system integration. And this is not counting all the lost opportunities for MySql.
    Any chance the driver will revert to LGPL or go to GPL with classpath exception like the rest of the java stack?

  17. Very interesting post, Thank you πŸ˜‰

  18. A wonderful concept back from the absolutely capitalistic society to a community oriented approach.

  19. Very interesting — I think a lot of the software engineers "on the floor" in many corporations can relate to this scenario… πŸ™‚

  20. I learn I only MYSOL. It writes programs with database often. I salute.

  21. David Halko

    Rocky Asks…
    — How can separate database, middleware, and application stack from Sun compete with the companies (i.e., Oracle and IBM) that optimize their individual layers to work together and with improved security.
    Database, Middleware, and Application stacks from other companies (i.e. Oracle and IBM) have been optimized for SUN platforms.
    There is another computing ecosystem (called the Internet) which does not necessarily depend on those stacks – SUN is participating more greatly in those areas.
    — I do not see how open source software can compete with a pre-engineered stack.
    SUN offers pre-engineered stacks based upon Open Source as well as architecture specifications for pre-engineered stacks based upon commercial offerings… even offers a mix of commercial and open source offerings.
    Considering the Internet is based upon Open Source, the time is now for people to accept that Open Source stacks are competing on a wide scale and understand how it is happening, rather than doubt The Internet and Social Media (which are based upon Open Source) exists.
    Every time I surf the web, I am reminded that Open Source stacks are competing and competing well.
    Heck, you even posted your question to SUN on their Open Source Stack – it made it! πŸ˜‰
    — If Sun is going to work on integrating your OS, middle ware then it is really becoming more proprietary than open source wouldn’t you say?
    Open is about choice and transparency.
    If your business has an application which requires a proprietary database and SUN has an Open Source product to integrate to it or an Open Source Operating System that it will run on – that does not make SUN proprietary.
    This same argument would say that Linux became proprietary because it started to run on Intel x86 and Phoenix BIOS.
    I am uncertain how this argument can be made in any seriousness.
    — I still do not understand your business model. I believe open source will be trumped by open architectures. It appears that Sun management disagrees. Can you elaborate as to why?
    SUN is Open Architecture.
    – SPARC
    – OpenSPARC
    – Open Firmware
    – OpenSolaris
    – POSIX
    – open MySQL
    – open Postgress support
    – Java
    – open Apache support
    – OpenOffice
    SUN has been open for years – but has not played well with the proprietary market.
    SUN reselling/integrating/supporting proprietary architectures from Intel and AMD with proprietary OS’s from vendors like Microsoft does not make SUN more proprietary, merely pragmatic.

  22. sunloveslenin

    I wish there was nothing proprietary in the World. I am glad Sun is working to make the World homogenous and commoditized for everyone.

  23. [Trackback] I just read Matt Asay's blog post MySQL adoption: Deep and wide in which he refers to an anecdote on Jonathan Schwarz's blog about MySQL adoption in the enterprise.
    In the anecdote, Jonathan meets with a CIO who claims that they don't …

  24. Hossein Hamidi

    Dear Mr. Schwartz,
    I have been reading your blog posts since acquisition of MySql. You tried to address positive issues which come to Open Source community through this joint. However, I want to explain what happened to Open Source community in my Country, Iran. As you may know, in Iran, we are suffering US sanctions for many years. These sanctions has a big impact on Software domain. For example, most of biggest Database companies are US related and are not allowed to export their product services to Iran.
    MySql was the only choice for an Enterprise-Comparable Database in our country. UN Development programs also persuade developing countries to use Open Source Software. You know, Data Base is an important enabler toward Knowledge Based society and being developed.
    Unfortunately, after acquisition of MySql by Sun, it is not possible to download it from Iran. We encounter an error message which we usually receive when try to download a Sun Software. I believe this is against Free Software which implies Free of Use. I want you to rethink about applying US embargo regulations to MySql and Free Software.

  25. Colin Gebhart

    Re: Mr. Hamidi’s comment
    This brings up an interesting discussion. Open source software should be accessible to residents of all countries regardless of political and legal discrimination, otherwise it should not be considered open source. I was under the impression US export controls regulate export of technology, not all products from a company (which means Sun may have overreacted).
    If export controls can regulate all of a company’s products in practice (requiring Sun to withhold MySql in Iran), and since companies become more involved in developing and distributing open source products every year, do changes need to be made?
    Should open source licenses be amended to prohibit discriminatory access to countries? Should an open access foundation be established and require open source projects deposit their code and binaries for redistribution to "prohibited" countries? What costs would this impose on the open source movement? Are their other solutions? Is this a problem in the end?

  26. Amit

    Hi Jonathan,
    MySQL is really a great product.It is easy to learn and enjoying experience.But, same is not true for Solaris.
    You talked about ‘participation age’ , that is good, but what is Sun offering for the end users?For Desktop?In my country India many ISPs (BSNL,VSNL) provides internet service through PPPoE for home users.It was really a painful job to configure PPPoE on Solaris 10.From layman’s point of view what is Sun offering to him?Does Sun expect him to be an expert in networking just to connect to internet?
    I may be wrong , but what I think is that Sun is not reaching to targeted people,the developers in future.
    In my college there is not a single installation of Solaris.Because people in my college simply don’t know that Solaris is ‘Open Source’ and free.We use ‘Linux’ for Unix Programming. Same is the case for many colleges(where my friends learn) in my city Pune.
    My intention is not to regard Solaris as a Desktop OS , and it will be never.But,still Solaris(Open) can be made more user friendly for general purpose users.Hope that Solaris doesn’t become only programmers and sysadmin’s paradise.
    Let, a common man be a part of network.

  27. mtg

    Why would SUN/MySQL stick to a dual-licensing model more suited for small or medium-sized companies? There are other options (and I’m speaking about RHEL):

  28. If mySQL isn’t available via a computing cloud the average small company can use its going to be DOA in 2 years. Hope you guys are busy adapting the grid to allow for open individualized computing for small to medium sized businesses worldwide.

  29. WEC

    I love MySQL, I just don’t like the idea of Sun buying it because I love Netscape products and Sun is just bad at acquiring companies. Almost a good majority, if not all, of Sun acquistion results in failure when they try to take it apart.
    I wait to see what Sun will do with MySQL.
    LookingGlass? I wonder where that is going. It’s more like a fun project for Sun rather than something useful. Fails in ease of use compare to Windows. And it is just terrible compared to Apple.
    Food for thought… Proprietary vendors innvote and create rock solid systems that are test, proven and supported. The spend billions on R&D. Sun uses open source but still charges customer the same? Yet the stock still fails miserably?
    Jonathan, do the stock holders a favor and instead of martketing, try making some real products and get your reps to start selling them.

  30. Jonathan,
    I was thrilled by your keynote, stressing not only your commitment to the community, but your belief that community is key. I know that Sun already is involved with academic communities, and I believe MySQL and academia could have a symbiotic relationship if given a chance. As a 2-time winner of the MySQL Community Advocate award, I’d love to talk with you more about community initiatives. Let me know when you’re in the Boston area and we can talk……

  31. 24-7

    Amazing that a software expert can’t size their blog to fit the average user’s computer screen!

  32. Great story. I want that shirt by the way! (doesn’t even matter that it doesn’t apply to me!)

  33. Satish Mummadi

    Sun did a great job by MySQL Aquisition. Sun should also acquire some of the companies which have built an eco-system around mysql, tools for administration, back-up, etc.

  34. If mySQL isn’t available via a computing cloud the average small company can use its going to be DOA in 2 years. Hope you guys are busy adapting the grid to allow for open individualized computing for small to medium sized businesses worldwide.

  35. Dan

    I worked in finance at a business that sells networked equipment that stores KPI’s in a proprietary SQL softare application. I asked one of our engineering managers why we force our customers to buy expenses SQL software from an enormous software company in Redmond, when mySQL might be a less expensive alternative. His response:
    "Having worked with mysql, I can tell you that it is not as robust as what we use, does not have the support, and can not run stored procedures, portioned tables, or several other things we need. Not bad for simple web sites, but inadequate for what we do. Nice idea though."
    True? False?

  36. Feedback

    Going forward, OpenSolaris is very very key for Sun. Its success is very crucial than ever. Only 2 companies can challenge the $M windows OS cash cow. Those two companies are Sun and Apple. Apple has good desktop OS. Sun needs a good next generation desktop system with Solaris. If this should happen then talk to every device driver vendor to write one for solaris and make a lighter version. Students are key for its adoption.
    Solaris lite + all device drivers + eye popping GUI + developer tools
    Solaris + MySQL + T2 systems will rock and shake the world.
    Give a free Solaris CD to every student in every university!

  37. Jonathan, once you have developed the commercial plans for MySQL, are you going to enpower to compete against google apps+ salesforce, coghead, etelos, rollbase, bungeeconnect, heroku, windows live CRM+SQL online,…?
    Congrats for your blog

  38. I am a user of sun products and mysql for quite a time. I am pertubed though at some things about both companies.
    The major of this is the lack of a sun group in my country Nigeria, there are several Java/Mysql users in this country and yet we dont have a Sun Group, the only one we have in Africa is down in SA. I will really like the Sun pple to look at this, its high time we have a sun group in Nigeria too, considering the level of development of technology in this country, google has taken the initiative(which is also late in coming) and I think Sun should not be left behind also.
    Thank you

  39. MySQL is great, but I just wish it was a bit more user friendly. I find that installing it is a lot harder than installing MS-SQL. On the bright side, it’s free. But Microsoft has a free database too. I guess I’m just loyal to MS. But the free part of MySql is very enticing.

  40. Yeah,freedom is not around us in china , but in my hometown hongkong, it appears a lot..

  41. Having just come from the new NY Solaris user group meeting where MySQL was the topic – we left quite impressed with the new developments outlined for Solaris

  42. John Gage

    Re Dan’s question:
    Support for stored procedures, triggers, and other advanced features was added to mySQL in 2005 – see
    Regarding support, Sun’s ownership of MySQL directly addresses that concern.

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