Oracle is once again showing that it is determined to squeeze profits out of its open source projects. The owners of the MySQL database recently announced a round of price hikes for customers of the widely used open source database product. With this round of price hikes, Oracle is really putting the hit on SMBs who were traditionally the bread and butter of the MySQL business. But there is an alternative. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, a new company called SkySQL made up of ex-MySQL folks has started offering support and services to MySQL customers. In general, SkySQL prices are anywhere from 30 to 60% cheaper than the advertised Oracle price.
Some may ask, why pay for an open source database at all? Good question. The easy answer is who are you going to call if you need help or support? That is the single biggest reason that customers buy a commercial version of MySQL. Other reasons could be that you embed the database in the product you sell or that you are using very large scale, multi-core, multi-CPU instances. But the heart of the MySQL business was always the SMB who could never afford the prices for an Oracle DB. They could not even afford the price for MS SQL Server (or maybe did not want to run on a Windows platform). That was the bread and butter for MySQL. For $599 dollars a year, a company could get a support and services contract for MySQL and they could be up and running in no time. That is why Sun paid the big bucks they did for MySQL.
Now Oracle is looking to squeeze the SMBs buy raising that price from $559 to $2,000 dollars. That may not be a big amount to some of you. But for many SMBs that will be the difference between buying support or not. It is one more example of how Oracle views the open source assets they purchased from Sun as a cash cow that they have to milk as fast as possible.
SkySQL CEO Ulf Sandberg had this to say,
After Oracle gained control of MySQL via the Sun acquisition, it’s no surprise that MySQL database prices are on the rise. This move strikes at the hearts of all businesses—in particular, the SMBs, web 2.0 companies, and organizations with limited budgets that have come to rely on MySQL because of its ease of use, reliability, and cost-performance. Fortunately, MySQL database customers are no longer constrained by the pricing whims of big business because more reasonable, cost-effective alternatives for MySQL software, service, and support exist.
He also published an open letter to the MySQL community here. I had a chance to speak with Kaj Karno, EVP of products for SkySQL as well. Kaj confirmed that SkySQL's pricing is significantly below Oracle's. Jaj said that this attitude towards the MySQL user base is driving customers to SkySQL.
SkySQL is also supporting MariaDB, a fork of MySQL started by yet another group of ex-MySQL veterans. That is where the SkySQL folks are publishing their bug fixes and code contributions. The real issue for me, is how long before SkySQL and other members of the MySQL community just abandon the Oracle sponsored MySQL version all together and line up for MariaDB? Just as another group of developers have moved from OpenOfffice.org to LibreOffice, the exodus is on at MySQL too.
Will Oracle wake up one day and as the last person standing shut the lights out at both open office and MySQL? It could very well happen if they don't get savvy about how to deal with the open source community. Perhaps someone can get them a book "How to make friends and influence the community"?