A few days ago, I got the opportunity to hear about some upcoming changes in MySQL Community and MySQL Enterprise. I’ve been waiting for an official announcement before commenting on the changes, and Kaj has finally posted the official announcement on his blog in Refining MySQL Community Server.
In summary, the changes are:
- Community gets no new features in any version once that version becomes GA — This effectively means that the difference between the content of Community and Enterprise approaches nil, since the addition of “Community Enhancements” was the major selling point for MySQL Community; In addition, it means that as of today, any new actual features go into MySQL 5.2, aka never-never land
- Some changes in the policy as to frequency of Community builds, which amounts to no change in the status quo — MySQL has changed its promise for Community releases from 2 per year to 4 per year, despite the fact that we have had 4 releases already in the first half of 2007
- MySQL will start to hide their Enterprise source releases from the public — A reaction to several Linux distributions using Enterprise releases for their bundled packages, Dorsal Source building binaries of Enterprise, and other issues; this doesn’t really solve any problems, however, as those who need or want the files will still get them all the same
So, what are my thoughts on the matter?
The “MySQL Community” concept has failed
As Kaj admits on IRC after a bit of prodding:
<kaj> JeremyC: Our past 10 months since Oct has been a struggle to make that work, and we’ve failed.
Only 10 months ago in October 2006, MySQL rocked the world a bit with Kaj’s announcement of the split between Community and Enterprise. For MySQL Community, Kaj promised:
- early access to MySQL features under development — this hasn’t happened, and I don’t see how it could have, as Community was intended to be released infrequently
- that MySQL AB will listen to their input — nothing has changed in this regard
- timely corrections to bug fixes they report — nothing has changed in this regard
- help with enhancing MySQL for their particular needs — nothing has changed in this regard
- channels to communicate with the rest of community for getting assistance — some nice changes here with the establishment of the FreeNode #mysql-dev IRC channel and the appointment of Chad Miller as community liaison
- an easier process for having contributions accepted in MySQL — very little has changed in this regard
- commitment to Open Source â€” including free, unrestricted availability of source code — uh, ok, kind of assumed
Has the above happened? No, not really. Other than a reduction in frequency for the Community tree, nothing has changed compared to how things used to be.
The fundamental idea behind the Community and Enterprise split is a reasonable one. It’s a model that has worked very well for RedHat with their Fedora / RHEL split (in fact I often recommend RHEL to our customers, because it has worked so well1 for most of them), and I think given the right implementation this model could work nicely for MySQL as well.
MySQL fundamentally misunderstands their community
Generally speaking, any contributions to the server will be to address specific problems, mostly in larger systems. That means that any possible contributions against the server are needed because either of bugs or deficiencies in MySQL that are already affecting production systems. Very few, if any, of the features we’re writing are just because it would be fun. That means we need those features in a version of MySQL we can actually use.
The promise with MySQL Community was that those contributions, small fixes, etc., would be accepted so that we could get on with using them in our production systems if we’re willing to use the Community releases. Eventually, after the changes are vetted and proven stable, they would possibly be pushed into Enterprise. This didn’t really work at all… since the releases of Community are so infrequent, very little vetting happens, and there is no real feedback loop with the users, due to the delay in seeing actual fixes implemented.
The split was confusing from the start
The version numbering scheme makes very little sense, even once you understand it. Case in point, since profiling was added in 5.0.37, does 5.0.44 have it? No? Huh?
Why try to keep the version numbers the same while fundamentally changing the release structure and content of each half of the split? This has confused users beyond anything else. In addition, the documentation has suffered tremendously from the change as well.
Back in my discussions before the actual split with Jay et al, I correctly predicted serious quality control issues in Enterprise given the more frequent release cycle compared to Community. Back in May, I pointed out a perfect example of this in Breakdown in MySQL Enterprise process; A bug fix was applied to Enterprise which had received no testing at all in Community or anywhere, and later had to be reverted. The new changes to Community and Enterprise do absolutely nothing to address these concerns.
What are we doing about it?
Dorsal Source — Community MySQL Builds
As you know, Proven Scaling has sponsored and worked with Solid to bring you Dorsal Source, which in its current incarnation is just scratching the surface of what we hope to make available. Dorsal Source has been and will continue to provide the source packages for Enterprise, as well as community-built binaries of the even-numbered Enterprise releases. In fact, we have just posted source and binaries for MySQL 5.0.46.
If you’re handy with PHP, MySQL, XML, and/or Drupal, and you’re passionate about MySQL or the MySQL community, and interested in helping Solid and Proven Scaling develop Dorsal Source, let me know. We’d love to have you on board.
Announcing a free and open mirror for the community
Proven Scaling immediately announces a new initiative to address the needs of our customers and the rest of the MySQL community: mirror.provenscaling.com/mysql, where we will provide a few unique—and we hope useful—things:
- Historical releases of MySQL 4.0 and 4.1, which MySQL AB removed from their site some time ago
- Source releases of Enterprise, which MySQL AB has only provided one at a time on ftp.mysql.com, and now intends to more deeply hide
- Binary releases of Enterprise, as built by MySQL AB, which are currently only directly available to customers of MySQL
We will provide standard rsync access for anyone else who wants to mirror this content… just send me a note.
Commitment to continuing development of MySQL 5.0
Proven Scaling has developed quite a few patches against MySQL 5.0, and we will continue to provide useful patches and do our development against the version of MySQL that our customers use… which means MySQL 5.0 for some time to come.
As Dorsal Source matures, you will see a whole slew of new features associated with patch management—keep an eye out for that.
1 Ugh, other than the fact up2date in RHEL4 sucks. Long live yum.