IOUG Podcast 24-AUG-2012 Rumors of MySQL’s Doom by Oracle / Design Piracy

For the week of August 24th, 2012:

Everybody’s Preparing for OpenWorld
Dispelling the Rumors of MySQL’s Impending Doom
On Piracy of Design

IOUG Podcast 24-AUG-2012 Rumors of MySQL’s Doom by Oracle / Design Piracy

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News this week on Oracle has been sparse, probably because every software-related organization is saving up their announcements for the surprise factor at OpenWorld at the end of next month. So with that in mind, we’ll keep this week’s news brief and equally suspenseful and figure out what is newsworthy next week..  However one interesting discussion thread did appear this week that was Oracle-related.

Earlier on Saturday last week, an article appeared in the online newsblog, TechCrunch.com rumoring that Oracle was restricting access to the test case database for newly logged bug reports for the MySQL database. (http://techcrunch.com/2012/08/18/oracle-makes-more-moves-to-kill-open-source-mysql) The specific assertion made was “…that the latest MySQL release has bug fixes but without a single one having any test cases associated with it. …creat(ing) all sorts of problems for developers who have no assurance that the problem is actually fixed.” The article continues with identification of a single entry in the bugs.mysql.com error tracking site being marked as “non-public” (Bug No. 65740 specifically)  The article goes on to state that  “It also appears that Oracle pulled the revision history for MySQL.”

Finding curiosity in both of these assertions, we found the following document retrievable on My Oracle Support: (Doc ID 1300654.1)

How to Download MySQL Server 5.5, 5.1 or 5.0; Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition; Advanced, Pro, Classic [ID 1300654.1]

This document is formatted identically to the familiar Oracle RDBMS release documents, listing out new functionality, bug fixes and continuing issues.  But My Oracle Support documents are only available to Oracle-supported users (meaning you have a valid Customer Support Identifier from having purchased one of Oracle’s products), so while Google searches would still provide some of the MOS result summaries, a non-paid user of MySQL (also known as MySQL Community Edition) would not find the MOS firewall to be a helpful feature when seeking issue resolution, so we pressed further inward into MySQL.com looking for answers.

The site mentions “Versions that are under development (not yet GA), are available from the MySQL Developer Zone.”  A few more clicks and you’ll discover the MySQL Documentation Library (dev.mysql.com/doc), which within each release (for example v5.6 Server here) will list the current features and bugfix information.  The publically-accessible bugfix database (bugs.mysql.com) continues to reference when a bug has been addressed and in which release the fix can be found.

As to the single bug 65740, in the discussion thread in Bug 65831 the analyst mentions 65740 was flagged as a duplicate and marked private to prevent duplicate tracking threads. And then various additional chatter ensued about whether bugs should ever be marked inaccessible, or not.

A number of responses to the MariaDB community discussion on the subject of the disappearing test cases simply find people migrating to MariaDB or PostgresSQL. Most Oracle RDBMS users have been accustomed to reviewing thousands of bugs and fixes over the years and not usually having specific means to reproduce them (for the purposes of proving that a particular bug was addressed.)  But in the MySQL community, disclosure of the bug, and an associated fix, mandated ability to prove that the fix was actually sound – certainly a byproduct of being previously supported by only an open source community and without commercial redress against a warranty-granting organization for fitness of purpose. While suspicious that the discussion is being hosted by an alternative MySQL package provider (akin to having a discussion on a uBuntu board that RedHat Linux is doing something not so appropriate), it is worthy noting Oracle has a similar approach to any of the products it has acquired over time, whether its repackaging of Oracle Enterprise Linux, or the Java technology stack, Oracle has been and for the foreseeable future, will continue to be a for-profit technology business. It charges money for its support and maintenance because it employs a few hundred thousand people to do the work of trying to improve the product while fixing the bugs.  Is it fair that something that was once free, no longer is the same? The Community Edition is still available without registration – but that is not a guarantee that it will always have the same level of integrity and fitness of purpose as the Enterprise Edition. A few years from now, will we be saying the same of Hadoop and MapReduce?

A subtle parallel story emerged in the news this week with Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung for infringement of its design patents. A suit brought by a company which copied its original user interface design from another company, Xerox (and then there’s the “who invented the computer mouse first” discussion, as well.)  If another user group finds the IOUG is not doing something worthwhile for its membership and creates its own organization patterned after the missing elements, is that theft of “intellectual property by design?” Someone who invented the first wheel should sue everybody according to those precedents.

In the end, since it is not the designers, architects or engineers that are remunerated for these efforts to control competition, but rather the law firms and organizations who employ them, we in the public realm should remain cautious when attempting to control creative plagiarism. Without the inspiration that comes from witnessing someone else’s creativity, we would probably be stuck forever “reinventing the wheel” all with an eye towards every wheel being just unique enough not to be prosecuted for IP infringement, instead of just rolling forward and getting somewhere.  That is why we are the Independent Oracle Users Group, and not THE Oracle Users Group, or the Lawfully-Privileged Oracle Users Group.  We exist to do something different and hopefully better when deploying solutions based upon another company’s amazing technologies, namely Oracle. And if something better comes along one day, so be it. Though we (probably) won’t sue them for copying our User Group design.