Is There an Open Source Database Ecosystem?


Yesterday I was writing about the advantage of open source ecosystems, and how difficult it is to nurture them when the copyright is held by a single company.

I also mentioned MySQL as a particular concern in this regard. In fact, earlier this year a new initiative called the Open Database Alliance was announced by none other than Monty Widenius, one of the original creators of MySQL, as “a vendor-neutral consortium designed to become the industry hub for the MySQL open source database.”

Things have now moved on to “Phase 2” of the project:

The Open Database Alliance was announced in May this year, after which we have put in some months of frantic activity to get all the essential pieces into place that allow an organization to function and be filled with life. Among other things we needed to decide on the country to choose and the seat, which ended up being Zürich, Switzerland.

The About page has some more details:

The Open Database Alliance (ODBA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of the commercial and non-commercial ecosystem around Open Source Database Technologies. Whereas proprietary software forces strong dependencies upon a single vendor, Open Source (a.k.a. Free Software, Libre Software, FOSS or FLOSS) enables an ecosystem of commercial offerings around certain technologies, e.g. GNU, Samba, Apache, the Linux Kernel.

Databases are an essential base technology for most higher applications, from desktop search over web services to the entire spectrum of enterprise IT. Enabling, growing and protecting that ecosystem for all Open Source Database Technologies are primary activities of the ODBA.

This is very different from the initial impulse to create an ecosystem around MySQL (and, more specifically, forks of it): now we are talking about the “open source database ecosystem”. To be honest, I'm not sure how this will work: it's not as if open source databases are completely fungible – you can't just swap one in for another. So does this mean that members of the Open Database Alliance will be working towards common standards? That would be nice, but seems unlikely.

Again, the problem comes back to one of copyright and control: individual vendors that own the copyright for their open source products are unlikely to be willing to cede either.

Were those code bases run by foundations, as I suggested yesterday, this kind of thing would be both easier and much more natural. That's clearly not going happen, at least in the short term, so it will be interesting to see how the ODBA goes about nurturing its ecosystem. In any case, it's good to see open source companies working together, since ultimately they are all on the same side.

Update: a little more background on what the ODBA is trying to do here.

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