Thursday, June 20, 2019

Open Core Summit and OSS glue code

I am optimistic about the Open Core Summit. It can be something that benefits users, startups, the source-available community and the OSS crowd. The summit has many of the important people from the open core community. It is an opportunity for them to collaborate -- form a foundation, reduce open core license proliferation, discuss the next license to be reviewed by OSI and most importantly -- fix the open core marketing approach.

I appreciate that startups put so much time and money into building interesting system software that is shared either as OSS or source-available. I haven't enjoyed much of the marketing about the challenges that cloud creates for VC-funded OSS. I am sure cloud makes it harder but the approach has been too negative with too much snark directed towards OSI and AWS. There is a better way.

Glue code

It is all about the glue code.

Stateful services are a hard problem. It is not trivial to scale MySQL by enabling a small DBA team to support a growing database deployment. I am sure the same is true for other DBMS. This is done with some changes to MySQL and a huge amount of glue code. While the GPL doesn't require sharing of the diffs to MySQL my teams have always been happy to do that. But the glue code is the secret sauce and neither the GPL nor the AGPL require it to be shared. The SSPL would change that, although I am wary of the SSPL given uncertainty about how far down the stack the sharing requirement extends.

While the glue code is the secret sauce I wonder whether it has any value outside of a web-scale company.
  1. The glue code isn't portable as it depends on other systems internal to a web-scale company.
  2. Documentation for internal systems is frequently not good and success depends on the shared knowledge of the current teams. Even with access to the internal dependencies the glue code is unusable without the team that knows how to use it.
Therefore I am more interested in OSS glue code that is useful to a community and less interested in licenses that force the (unusable to me) glue code to be published. The glue code should assume environments open to the public -- public clouds and k8s.

What is the state of OSS glue code for MySQL? MySQL needs it to remain competitive. Much of the glue code is baked into MongoDB so that it is easier to scale MongoDB clusters even if you aren't an Atlas customer.

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