Leaving MariaDB/Monty Program

Last week I announced internally that after my paternity leave ends next year, I will not be returning to Monty Program.

When I joined the company over a year ago I was immediately involved in drafting a project plan for the Open Database Alliance and its relation to MariaDB. We wanted to imitate the model of the Linux Foundation and Linux project, where the MariaDB project would be hosted by a non-profit organization where multiple vendors would collaborate and contribute. We wanted MariaDB to be a true community project, like most successful open source projects are - such as all other parts of the LAMP stack.

So we went ahead and told about this vision when we promoted MariaDB and recruited users and contributors or customers to our company:

I'm sure there are other occasions too that I wasn't involved in, like convincing Linux distributions that MariaDB is preferable to MySQL, or that we should get a free booth in the dot-org pavilion at a conference.

The reality today, confirmed to me during last week, is that:

  • Those in charge at Monty Program have decided to keep ownership of the MariaDB trademark, logo and mariadb.org domain, since this will make the company more valuable to investors and eventually to potential buyers.
  • Some may already have observed that the 5.2 release was not announced at all on mariadb.org, rather on the Monty Program blog. It is even intact with the "us vs them" attitude also MySQL AB had of its community, where the company is one entity and "outside community contributors" is another. This is repeated in other communication, such as the recent Recently in MariaDB newsletter.
  • Also the mariadb.org page that used to mention various companies as MariaDB contributors now describes it squarely as a Monty Program project, with the other contributors removed.

So plans can change, it shouldn't be a big deal. Maybe to most of you, it isn't. For myself the most troubling part was that we said, and I personally said, some things to promote MariaDB, to get allies and friends, and now it turns out they will not be true.

I think in Open Source it is important to be transparent about what you do. So what can I say, other than that when I spoke about MariaDB as a community project unifying all vendors, there existed a plan with executive approval, and I fully believe that plan would be executed. And that the change in plans was something I had no control of - indeed, something I couldn't stop even if I tried.

At this point I think I should make it clear that I'm not against vendors that productize open source projects. Not at all, quite the contrary in fact. There are now multiple vendors with their own brand of a MySQL fork, including of course MySQL/Oracle itself, and I think this is excellent. Now, with MariaDB, we have one vendor-fork more and the world is of course not worse off because of it.

Quite the contrary, I think the development work going into MariaDB is very relevant, both for web and enterprise users, and it is progressing quite nicely compared to the stand still from MySQL 5.0, 5.1 and 6.0 we were used to only a few years ago.

And all of this work of course will be available under the GPL, so other vendors will benefit from it, just as MariaDB continuosly benefits from the work done by Oracle and Percona. And we shouldn't forget that MariaDB today is of course more open than MySQL was (which is also true for Percona, especially thinking of the XtraBackup tool and such). So we have certainly made a lot of progress. We managed to convinve Monty to license the MariaDB knowledgebase under Creative Commons and GFDL licenses. We have public build and QA system and mailing lists. (...so when the inevitable happens and 10 years from now Oracle announces that is has acquired whoever is then the owner of mariadb.org, it will be much easier to fork MariaDB the next time. ;-)

But unfortunately, what we don't yet have is a unifying focal point where vendors and individuals alike could collaborate on neutral ground. I believe there is a lot of potential in the MySQL ecosystem to grow into such a large multi-vendor project comparable to Linux and other amazingly large projects and replace the proprietary incumbents in the database layer. It was my vision to make MariaDB that project.

So the reason for me departing from MariaDB is not that I'm against any of the decisions taken per se. It's just that I don't have the motivation to contribute my energy on something that in its structure is very similar to MySQL AB - including the division of employees wanting to do one thing and management doing the opposite.

The damage control around the Oracle Sun acquisition has now mostly been done, with many of those that wanted to leave Oracle already in new companies, and those still remaining at least having enough good options to go with in the near future. I'm glad I was able to help many of these companies and people during the past year in various ways. I'm proud of having done my part in helping O'Reilly to keep alive the MySQL conference, a vital annual tradition that keeps the community together.

So at this point, what is left for me is the observation that... if MariaDB wants to be just another vendor of a MySQL fork... I might as well look around for new challenges.

At the moment I don't yet know what I will be doing next. I'm still interested in the open source database landscape (and the practice of working from home). On the other hand, I cannot help noticing how other forked Sun projects have no problem coming together under an umbrella foundation and immediately pulling together 50+ developers and support from all the major Linux distributions. OpenOffice in particular I think is an exciting opportunity with a lot of untapped business potential due to a decade of Sun mismanagement.

So we will see where life takes me next. One thing is for sure - today you cannot work in IT anymore without it also having an open source connection. Only a few years ago that wasn't yet the case. This is some progress I certainly welcome!

I still have many government paid months left to spend with my kids. I'm already talking to a few companies both in the MySQL sphere and elsewhere. But in the mean time I'll already wish you Merry Christmas and hopefully I'll have time to update my small Drupal module to 7.0.


I am entirely unhappy that the course of events has cause you to take part from MariaDB.

Despite our disagreements on a number of topics, I was really happy that an alternative to MySQL existed of the kind anticipated by the project. That is to say, a cooperative effort very unlike the corporate-centric model embodied in MySQL AB first, then Sun and eventually Oracle.

I hope there will be more occasions to be on the same agenda rather than on opposite sides, given that we are indeed pursuing the same long term goals, despite working on different and sometimes conflicting tasks.

Best wishes.


Thanks Carlo for the kind words!

Regarding the future of MySQL, there is no reason to be too pessimistic. I think the ecosystem as a whole is possibly stronger than ever, even if we are still in a period of recovery and restructuring. I intend to blog separately on this topic soon. Meanwhile, see Stephen O'Grady and Brian Aker. It is a lot thanks to distributed version control (and GPL) that we are able to co-operate without co-operating.

Regarding our common Brussels history, I think two comments are appropriate:

1) Remember that the process worked such that you know everything our side has submitted, but except for 2 public blog posts, I know absolutely nothing of what your opinion or contribution was. So to the extent that there is disagreement on substance (that opposing parties "want" different things to be true is of course not a question), I'm still only guessing what it was. It was a fascinating process for sure, is the only thing I can say :-)

2) Regarding you personally, I have all the time appreciated your sportsmanlike style. I see us as two football players wearing different jerseys: We both play the same beautiful game! (And even if that weren't true: You are a lawyer, you don't need to apologize for doing your work. Even O.J. Simpson had a lawyer - a good one. It is your call to share your expertise with anyone in need, whoever your clients are, I will never have a problem with that.)

For what concerns MySQL, I could not agree more.

On the procedural stuff, I am not sure what you have received as complainant, but I suppose you have received at least the documents (a redacted form of them) filed by Oracle in reply to the Statement of Objections. That is the only document I have had dug my hands in -- I was concentrating on the part I was mostly interested and experienced, of course. If you have read Eben Moglen's letter, you have already read something really consistent with it.

What I have done internally advising Oracle, I cannot obviously reveal due to very basic confidentiality rules. Be sure I have not refrained from saying my opinions when required, sometimes with amusing effects, so it is a pity I am not at liberty to discuss them :-)

Finally, I don't think anybody who has acted in good faith and for good motives has to apologize for it. This surely includes me and you (chapeau!).

Keep us updated on your whereabouts.

Yeah, I come out looking pretty good here don't I :-) The reality is quite the opposite however.

The fact is, I didn't resign in protest to this decision, as if I believe a foundation governed open source project is the only pope-approved holy way of doing things. It's just that in the case of MariaDB, I did see it as the best strategy and something where MP would have had a very special role. On the other hand I'm not convinced of the strategy now chosen by the company, so there was little motivation to stay. In particular, I didn't really see a role where I could contribute in a way that would matter one way or the other. So I just have to look for another job, that's all.

So as an example, if I was a MariaDB developer, I would very likely have stayed. In the dev team they get to develop great features together with a great team, available to the world as open source. Absolutely no problem with that. But my role was more on the business and community side, and there I didn't see a way forward.

Or to put it another way, in leaving Monty Program, I don't expect my new job - whatever it turns out to be - to be somehow more open source friendly than MP was. In fact, such a company is hard to find. I just hope to find something meaningful to do. I can always contribute to open source regardless of where I work.

Very sad to hear this, Henrik, both from the perspective of seeing you let down (something I am familiar with as a concept...) and from the perspective of the Alliance not working out as a uniting force. I'm finding there's lots of circulating energy around software freedom, though - I'm looking forward to seeing (or even collaborating in perhaps) what you do next.

Mark Baker (not verified)

Thu, 2010-11-25 16:59

I admire your rationalising it and deciding to move on.

Keep in touch and like Simon, I hope we get the chance to collaborate together in the future.


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