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Open Source Worldwide


I've spent the last few days in a series of meetings as part of the MySQL Management Team (MT) and also with our Board of Directors.  One of the topics we've talked about extensively is how we can continue to expand our community worldwide.  Many people know that MySQL gets over 40,000 downloads per day.  (No, not per month, per day!)  And with MySQL 5.0 release candidate expected shortly, that number will likely increase over the coming months as many people check out the latest features including stored procedures, triggers, views, etc. 

The interesting thing is that while two thirds of MySQL revenue is generated in North America, we have huge download volumes in countries where we have no business efforts.  For example, Brazil is our number one download country after the US, generating more downloads than the UK, Germany, France, Japan or Australia.  India and China are not far behind.  I don't expect that we'll be generating revenue any time soon in these countries, but it is still great to be expanding the number of users world wide.  Perhaps some folks will help us by translating our documentation or  web pages.  And certainly there's more we can do to support our users around the world. 

Not surprisingly, Brazil, India, China and other countries that are encouraging the adoption of Open Source software as part of their overall national IT initiatives.  Instead of spending money on proprietary closed source software, these countries are investing in themselves, encouraging the development of open source businesses and projects.  In fact, there are a lot of government initiatives worldwide that encourage use of open source software.  I uncovered a few of these while researching a white paper on the subject.  (See the links below for some more information on this subject.)

For example, the Brazilian government announced it could save around $120 million a year by migrating to open source software. According to Sergio Amadeu da Silveira, head of the ITI (National Information Technology Institute), the government is currently paying around $500 for every workstation to Microsoft regarding license fees.  Through numerous open source projects, the government tries to bridge the technology divide among the Brazilian population. One successful initiative entitled Recycling Goal aims to provide computer technologies to people living in the underdeveloped outskirts of Sao Paulo.   

Simon Phipps: Sun Open Source Officer


Congrats to Simon Phipps who has been promoted to Sun's Chief Open Source Officer.  I don't know if Simon's the first open source guy with such a fancy title, but it is obviously a significant endorsement both of Sun's open source strategy and their confidence in Simon to lead the charge. 

As Sun frequently points out, they've long been a supporter of open source technology and they made a major commitment earlier this year by open sourcing Solaris, their flagship operating system.  OpenSolaris appears to be gathering steam, particularly on high performance Opteron systems.  Sun has had a long history of innovation both in hardware and software and it's great that Sun is as committed as they are to open source.

A lot of people don't know it, but MySQL was actually originally written for Solaris and it has great scaleability on that platform.  In fact, we've had some excellent benchmark results on Solaris.  Some of our largest customers run MySQL on Solaris and now with OpenSolaris becoming more popular, I think there will be even more growth in this area.

Where are the open source marketers?


Interesting article by David Rosenberg on the fact that there appears to be a shortage of open source marketers.  When I joined MySQL, I had a lot of discussions with the founders about how to build a strong team and what type of background would be appropriate for open source marketing.  Unfortunately, it was clear that there simply weren't a lot of open source marketers out there.  There were only one or two successful open source companies and there was no "deep bench" to draw from.  So instead, I recruited from the commercial software industry, drawing from people who had experience marketing to developers and DBAs.  From what David reports, and from the number of recruiters who call me looking for contacts, it sounds like there are a lot of openings out there in open source startups.  My recommendation to the recruiters is to hire folks who have been successful in new categories, as opposed to ten or fifteen years of traditional enterprise applications.  The key attribute is to be able to creatively figure out how to build and promote a business that doesn't conflict with open source values.  Sounds easy, right?

New MySQL home page

The web team posted a new home page design for MySQL last week.  The site had gotten a bit confusing as we added a lot of new sections in the past year, and I think the team did a great job with it. We wanted to make it easier to guide people to find the right information, whether they were DBAs, developers, OEMs, corporate users etc.   Initial feedback has been very positive. I think the new look rocks, but maybe I'm biased.  Let us know what you think!

Zimbra Runs MySQL


Zimbra, previously known as Liquid Systems, is starting to emerge from stealth mode.  Last week at LinuxWorld in San Francisco, they exhibited in the MySQL booth (along with other LAMP based applications and partners) showing off their new open source email solution.  Maybe open source email seems like old hat to some folks, but Microsoft Exchange has a lock on IT managers around the world, and Zimbra is fully exchange compatible. It has its own rich web client and is also fully compatible with Outlook as well as any POP3 or IMAP email client. 

What that means is IT managers can start using Zimbra in conjunction with their existing exchange servers and get the full benefit of email and calendaring at a fraction of the price of Microsoft's closed source solution.  Zimbra runs on Linux and also uses MySQL for underlying storage and will be completely open source.  (Ok, It's not quite ready yet, but soon!)  Not only will Zimbra break the Exchange / Outlook monopoly, it will deliver 5x the scalability of exchange.  I can't wait for us to test this out at MySQL.  Woohoo!

Novell SuSE Comes on Strong


At LinuxWorld today, Novell kicked off some major new initiatives around their Linux distro SuSE.  Key among these is the announcement of OpenSuSE which enables anyone in the community to have access to early versions of SuSE in advance of the final deliveries.  This isn't a forking of SuSE or a different build, its just more visibility into the existing process that used to be done entirely behind closed doors.  This makes it easier for people to contribute to SuSE and test out the latest version while its still under development.  Hat's off to Novell for working closely with the community on this.

Novell also announced that they will be reselling MySQL Network, which is pretty cool and they also announced a new program called Market Start to promote several new open source startup companies including SugarCRM, Pentaho, Astaro, GroundWork, Lumen Software and others. 

OSCON: Open Source Startups


At OSCON this year, I noticed a distinct increase in the number of open source startup companies that are emerging.  More and more open source developers are realizing that the same mechanism that enables them to develop better software faster can also be used to lower the cost of starting a business. And Entrepreneurs who may not have been paying attention to open source as a social movement in the last few years are realizing it's a heckuva good way to get investors' attention.  In the last few months, several open source startup companies have generated investor interest, primarily in new, emerging categories.  This includes the likes of SugarCRM (CRM), JasperSoft (Reporting), ActiveGrid (LAMP scale-out), Al Fresco (Content Management).  That's in addition to the earlier funding that went to other LAMP (Linux. Apache, MySQL / PHP / Perl / Python) companies like SpikeSource, SourceLabs.  And since these companies are partners of MySQL, it helps strengthen the entire open source ecosystem.  More applications leads to more adoption of open source infrastructure, which leads to more customers, which causes more companies to support open source and so on.

While there's a risk that open source is just the latest buzzword for investors it does appear that open source can both lower the cost of building a startup company and accelerate adoption of new technologies.  In a typical startup, the toughest stage is getting critical mass as you try to grow revenues from Zero to around $10 million.  If you can't get to $10 million you probably don't have a business that will be large enough to make it long term on a standalone basis.  (And if you took Venture Capital, you're probably in some uncomfortable meetings.)  So a lot of the early stage of a startup company is balancing the expenses with revenues and trying to see when things catch fire so that you have a repeatable business. 

Joe Kraus, founder of Jotspot (a wiki software company), and former founder of Excite, estimates that the software and hardware costs of starting a software company today are around 1/30th of what it was just 10 years ago, largely due to open source infrastructure and the LAMP stack. 

At MySQL, we've certainly benefited from open source as a way to lower our sales and marketing costs.  Unlike earlier startups I've been involved with, we don't spend a lot of time explaining to people what MySQL is, trying to get them to try it out, or sending expensive consulting or SE resources on site to do week long proof-of-concept (POC) exercises.  Most people who use MySQL know what a relational database is, they download it and they test it out themselves.  In fact, we get over 40,000 downloads per day, which is pretty amazing momentum.  So certainly in large markets that are becoming commoditized, open source can be very effective.