My Take on the “Differentiation 2.0” Conversation

So, like I mentioned in the Log Buffer #58 this afternoon, the MySQL blog world was abuzz during these last two weeks — as were various IRC channels — with debates and discussions about the latest news Kaj blogged about with regards to further efforts by MySQL to differentiate.

At the risk of sounding like a piece of milk toast, I would like to emphasize the point that the collective “we” — MySQL AB, the MySQL user community, and MySQL paying customers — are all in this thing together. If one piece of the collective is hurt, it affects all the others in both direct and indirect ways.

The collective “we” is currently amidst an evolutionary process: the path of refining the way MySQL funds the development of its open source products by making money from the differentiated products it offers to paying customers. I think all the bloggers who have participated in the discussions so far understand this basic point. But the point is worth repeating because in the commotion, it is in our human nature to focus on the here-and-now and by doing so, miss how the current state of affairs plays into the long-term plans and condition of both the company and the community.

Growing Pains

Kaj was correct when he pointed out that not a whole lot actually changed with his announcement. The removal of Enterprise Server source tarballs from the public FTP site was a business move that was designed to more properly delineate the paid and unpaid products. While will maintain and publish enterprise binaries, MySQL decided the best thing to solidify the brand of MySQL Enterprise was to place enterprise source tarballs in an area for paying customers only. I think this decision makes good business sense. I recognize that this is a bit upsetting for the MySQL community users, but MySQL must build a brand name around MySQL Enterprise, and that brand is targeting paying users.

Now, do I agree with many of the comments that Jeremy Cole and Baron Schwartz, among others, have made regarding the stability of the Enterprise source code given the reduced testing from the overall community? Yes, I do. I think the problems that Baron addressed and beautifully outlined in his article are valid and that he is dead on.

That said, I honestly believe that if we look long term, and not just focus on the current state of affairs, all of Baron’s concerns will eventually be addressed. I am confident in this because I am privy to the internal debate that exists inside MySQL about these very issues. In time, the concerns will be addressed and a stronger MySQL community and company will emerge. In the meantime, we encourage the discussion, as it broadens our perspective on decisions and illuminates the road ahead for us. And, above all, we ask for patience and for understanding that sometimes good business means good community — sometimes, you just have to look long-term to see the connection.