Personally, I think it's a good thing when there are new, lower-cost database alternatives offered to customers. However, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is about much more than "cheap". Market research (such as Evans Data) so far indicates that "lite" versions haven't gained much traction. I believe the reason is that most users are looking for a full-featured database product, not a handicapped trial version.
As a footnote related to the power of OS DBs, Business Week reports about the Evans Data survey as follows, 21 October 2005:
Mainstream database software companies that have been watching open-source upstart MySQL in their rearview mirrors must be having some uncomfortable thoughts right about now. According to a user survey released Oct. 20 by market researcher Evans Data Corp., open-source database deployments in corporations are up 20% in the past six months, and use of MySQL is up 25%. Forty-four percent of corporate software developers surveyed said they use MySQL software. In the coming months, MySQL's growth rate could hockeystick.
The Open Source Database Conference in Frankfurt earlier this week provided me with an excellent opportunity to interact with other providers of FOSS databases. More precisely, with the help of Georg Richter and Zak Greant, I had invited a number of FOSS DB developers to a dinner last Tuesday 8 November 2005 opposite the NH MÃƒÂ¶rfelden hotel in Frankfurt (where the OS DB conference was being arranged) to test the hypothesis whether the ground is fertile to establish an Open Source Database Consortium as a (formal or informal) vehicle of exchanging information between FOSS DB providers, and as a body for the OS DB industry.
So we met, in alphabetical order (sorry if I missed someone; just tell me and I'll correct it):
- Brian Aker / MySQL
- Kaj ArnÃƒÂ¶ / MySQL
- Patrik Backman / MySQL (indirectly representing JÃƒÂ¶rg Hoffmeister / MaxDB, who had to leave just before)
- Josh Berkus / PostgreSQL
- Marcus Boerger / PHP
- Gregory Burd / Sleepycat (BDB)
- Daniel John Debrunner / Derby
- Peter Eisentraut / PostgreSQL
- Zak Greant / SQLite (as proxy for Richard Hipp)
- Lenz Grimmer / MySQL
- ÃƒËœystein GrÃƒÂ¸vlen / Sun
- Jutta Horstmann
- Anders Karlsson / MySQL
- Holger Klemt / Firebird (with Ann Harrison and Paul Beach invited but not able to come)
- Arjen Lentz / MySQL
- Mauricio Longo / Firebird
- Georg Richter / MySQL
- Gavin Sherry / PostgreSQL
- Lukas Kahwe Smith / PHP
- Fred Toussi / HSQLDB
The discussion was lively and any open animosity between the representers of competing OS DBs, if there ever was any, disappeared after the first sip of wine, Weissbier, or whatever we had. A lot of technology information on cool projects, such as PostgreSQL's Slony-II replication, flowed as freely as Open Source information flows.
In an at least partially successful attempt to impose something vaguely resembling an agenda on the group heading almost 20 people, I encouraged smaller groups auto-forming in the various parts of the table to structure their OS DB Consortium thoughts into three phases:
- Brainstorming: What are the things we could do together? What are our common interests? From what type of cooperation amongst us could our users benefit?
- Evaluate: Which ideas are worth considering?
- Low-hanging fruit: Which ideas can we implement easily?
As an additional item we discussed our legal status: Should we have a web site? A legal organisation, with by-laws?
1. The brainstormed ideas were plentiful:
- Joint benchmarks to make it easier to compare OS DBs
- An external advocacy mailing list
- A private mailing list for emergencies, security issues (such as zlib)
- Joint development: standards (such as PDBC) and APIs, research, conformance test suite, performance test suite
- Joint marketing: announcements, advocacy of FOSS licenses over closed source licenses, approaches to universities
- Joint PlanetXxx.org blog aggregation
- Joint legal research and statements on SWPATs, other IP issues, licenses
2. When evaluating ideas, we noticed that:
- we have different stances on SWPATs, ranging from the clear, strong and open support (and even financing) of NoSoftwarePatents.com, to concerns of the wisdom of a clear NoSoftwarePatents.com support when being financed by some of the world's largest SWPAT holders; although it was hard to find SWPAT proponents around the table, we could deduce that NoSWPAT advocacy is not a common denominator
- although it may be desirable, it is hard to define a fair common benchmark (but the one c't is using, the Dell DVD shop, comes close)
3. The low-hanging fruits were suggested to be:
- The establishment of a common website, OSDBConsortium.org or something (thanks Gavin for already implementing this!)
- An internal mailing list for our own discussions on our future ideas
4. As for the legal organisation,
- we could have individual members, or corporate members, or both
- we could see the Apache Software Foundation as a model
- we could leave the legal organisation until later
If you were present, or you're just interested in being in this consortium, leave a comment in this blog article!