News that Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) provides a MySQL 5.1 relational database in the cloud has met with a lot of interest. On the surface, this is good news for open source users and proponents.
When I read about RDS, I wondered if this was in fact good news for open source vendors. I asked if Sun/MySQL was being compensated for Amazon's use of MySQL in RDS. Sun sources confirmed:
The MySQL database that is used in Amazon's RDS is based on the free, community version of MySQL. However, for those Amazon Web Services customers that need MySQL technical support, Sun does offer that through our MySQL Enterprise subscription.
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At this point, it's helpful to stop treating RDS as a competitive action against Sun/MySQL. The rest of this post could apply equally to another open source project, the related open-core or dual-licensed product and the related open source vendor. I fully expect to see Amazon continue to offer open source middleware components; RDS is the first step. I only mention Sun/MySQL below to help explain my thinking, not to draw any conclusions to its current or future market position.
Amazon's decision to use the free version of MySQL to build RDS is completely sensible. First, Amazon has the technical skills to support their usage of MySQL without having to acquire the MySQL Enterprise subscription. Second, this decision helps Amazon lower the cost of RDS, which makes RDS more attractive to customers. This is clearly not good news for Sun/MySQL, which is missing out on capturing some portion of the revenue from MySQL users spending on RDS.
Customers can still pay Sun/MySQL and Amazon to deploy MySQL Enterprise to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). But with the introduction of RDS, Amazon is asking, why bother? RDS reduces the need to manage, administer, and support a MySQL environment. These are the key reasons one would purchase MySQL Enterprise. RDS makes these three purchase drives less valuable to customers.
Until now, open source vendors have attempted to secure revenue by offering management and administration capabilities only through a for-fee product offering built around an open source core product. Amazon has just thrown a major wrench into that strategy. Why pay for the vendor's "enterprise" product to obtain management, administration, and support, when Amazon's cloud service minimizes the need for management and administration and includes support?
So what can open source vendors do? Well, first, open source vendors have time to respond since the majority of workloads are not (yet?) in the cloud. Second, proprietary features will be required in the "enterprise" version that are not available in the "free community" version of the product. These features must not fall into the administration and management category.
Proprietary may just be an open source vendor best strategy against Amazon and other cloud providers.
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p.s.: I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."