MySQL departs Lion, is Oracle to blame?

Despite FUD from competion, fault shouldn't be placed on Oracle

It was bound to happen, I suppose: a big customer drops an Oracle product and speculation is raised that the customer was scared off because they weren't sure if Oracle is going to break the software or sue them for using it.

The product in question is venerable open source database MySQL, which according to The Register is no longer included within OS X Server (Lion). Instead, users of Lion server get to use PostgreSQL from the command line (not the Lion GUI).

There is no official explanation for MySQL's removal from Apple's server product, so it's anyone's guess why this happened. It wasn't something the PostgreSQL team pushed for, that's for sure: my favorite part of the Register piece is reading how the staff at EnterpriseDB, which sells an open core version of PostgreSQL, were just as surprised as everyone else about the change.

Speculation abounds in the article: Apple historically doesn't like GPL software (MySQL is dual licensed under the GPL and a proprietary license for commercial users); Apple doesn't like the MySQL roadmap; Apple is worried that Oracle will level IP complaints against them, just as they've done with Java against Google. As much as I am skeptical about Oracle's open source policies, I think the EnterpriseDB sources in the article are engaging in a little bit of FUD in the face of their unexpected good fortune. I am reasonably sure Oracle isn't going to aim a lawsuit at straight-out end users of MySQL. Whether you agree with them or not, Oracle didn't go after Google because Google used Java: they went after Google because Google allegedly infringed on copyrighted Java code within Android's Dalvik virtual machine.

Nor am I convinced that MySQL's team doesn't have their act together. In late July, MySQL released a preview version of MySQL 5.6, which has received general positive, if somewhat mixed reviews. Given that that seems to be the case with nearly every release of MySQL since the dawn of time, it's not something that anyone can point to with certainty and say something like, "Oracle's ruining MySQL."

About the only point the EnterpriseDB team made that has any traction with me is the argument about MySQL's license. PostgreSQL's BSD-like PostgreSQL License is far more permissive than the GPL, so I could see Apple, which seems allergic to the idea of the GPL in other sectors of their business (see: Apple App Store) wanting to chuck MySQL as a pre-installed option in Lion Server. But honestly, even that doesn't make a lot of sense. Offering GPL'd software as part of a selection of available options in no way risks getting entangled with the GPL--for the provider or the end user. It's just there to use.

I suspect that one or two things are actually going on here. I don't know if Apple had any sort of cross-support agreement with Oracle for MySQL-using Server customers, but if they did, perhaps Apple let that agreement lapse and no longer wants the hassle with supporting MySQL. Alternatively, Apple never had a support agreement with Oracle for MySQL-using Server customers, and Apple no longer wants the hassle with supporting MySQL. Either way, it's a support-resource issue, not a reflection on MySQL.

The conclusion of the Register article points out the meta-reason for all of this: Apple is shifting more than ever to the consumer market, and could be slowly phasing out their Server product. If that is indeed the case, then it's little wonder they dropped MySQL. If I were on the PostgreSQL or EnterpriseDB teams, I wouldn't sit too comfortably on this apparent victory: your database could be next.

If OS X is really leaving the server market, that would be a pretty sweet win for Linux. Not a big win, mind you: OS X server use is typically reported in the low single digits among the various analyst and metric reports, depending on who you ask. But I have little doubt that the OS X Server installs that are out there will likely shift to Linux before they migrate to Windows if Apple does pull back.

Whatever the reason for MySQL's departure from Lion Server, it's a pretty fair bet the reason lies with Apple, not Oracle.

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