MariaDB steps out from MySQL's shadow

The MariaDB Foundation launches to provide a home for MySQL users unwilling to bow to Oracle

The MySQL community in exile made a significant announcement yesterday in London at the Percona Live conference. The three main companies investing in the MariaDB fork of MySQL joined with leaders of the MySQL development community to unveil the MariaDB Foundation, intended as a home for serious, commercially backed development of future versions of the popular open source SQL database. Already enjoying substantial commercial backing, the new foundation is seeking further participants and aims to elect a representative board in two months.

The MariaDB fork was established several years ago by MySQL's founder and original developer, Michael "Monty" Widenius, as a refuge for the original MySQL developers fleeing Oracle's purchase of the company behind the eponymous database. Since then, MariaDB has struggled to gain recognition in the shadow of the brand strength of the original project, especially now that MySQL is the property of such a huge software conglomerate.

All the same, development has continued, and the codebase is already in use by database vendors SkySQL and Percona, supported by Monty Program AB, the company set up to host MariaDB development.

Clearly the developers involved in MariaDB believe it's time to stand apart from MySQL. Last week saw the release of new LPGL-licensed open source client libraries that allow the use of either MySQL or MariaDB without concerns about the consequences of the GPL, under which both are licensed. That means the impetus behind the need for many commercial users of MySQL to obtain proprietary licenses for MySQL from Oracle is removed, opening up the market for more flexible use of the database in new applications.

This week's news sees the organization set up by Widenius starting a conversion process into a community-controlled, multivendor-funded nonprofit foundation. Interestingly, the interim leadership for the new foundation is headed not by Widenius as many expected but by Andrew Katz, a respected international authority on open source legal issues. The foundation apparently already has 1 million euros of funding committed by two early sponsors and has called for more companies to join now in advance of the formalization of governance in February -- an ambitious schedule.

It will be interesting to see how both the open source community and Oracle respond to this development, but it's certain that the trend toward formalized collective governance of open source is continuing. OpenStack, Apache, Eclipse, the Document Foundation, and others have all shown that communities feel more secure and thus become more productive in the context of collective, independent governance. Which community will be next?

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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