Thoughts on MaxScale new license

MaxScale has been open source until now, just like all MariaDB projects. But the 2.0 version is released under a new license called BSL, which basically makes the covered work non-free until the Change Date (in this case 2019-01-01), when the license will be converted to GPL.

Looks like open source friendly, after all. The license will be GPL, just be patient. And the code is available. Right?

No. Cmpletely wrong. For plenty of reasons.

Some reasons

It is a lock-in. No matter how many times Monty repeats that there is no lock-in, we have a brain. If you don’t allow anyone to fix bugs except for yourself, it is a lock-in. If you force your users to buy your support, they won’t buy your competitors support.

MariaDB business moves to a non-free product. Yes, 1.4 is free an this won’t change. And yes, when 3.0 will be out, 2.0 will be free. But why should they maintain a free version, if money comes from non-free versions? Monty says that open source religion doesn’t put bread on the table. I suppose that maintaining free branches also doesn’t put bread on the table.

I wasn’t able to find any official EOL date for any MaxScale version – if there is one, please comment below.

MariaDB moves innovation to the non-free world. New features are non-free. When they will be old, they will be free. Monty also stated that this is the correct way to make money for a lot of projects. And he seems to advice this model to start-ups that use his venture capital, OpenOcean. Suddenly, BSL seems to be the only way for projects to survive. Is he protecting others projects interests, or using them for his own marketing?

MariaDB accused Oracle several times. When Oracle implemented a couple features and only distributed them in a non-GPL edition (threadpool, PAM authentication), MariaDB told that they had the same features as open source. Which was great. Except that… now MySQL Router is open source, MaxScale 2.0 is not. Now Monty has several justifications for this. But I fail to understand why open core is evil and BSL is good.

I mentioned Monty too many times. Is this an attack against Monty? Definitely not, but all articles I could find express Monty’s opinion, not MariaDB Corporation or anyone else’s opinion. I cannot answer the silence.

What is the MariaDB Foundation?

MariaDB Corporation has the legal right to make MaxScale non-free. They own it. They sometimes call it MariaDB MaxScale. They can: they also own MariaDB trademark.

So, what’s the role of MariaDB Foundation?

They claim they safeguard MariaDB. They don’t mention the ecosystem, the community, or other tools. They don’t mention, of course, MaxScale. Which is quite strange: they claimed that their model is Apache Foundation, which supports an entire ecosystem in many ways, and owns the trademarks.

Also, the board of directors has 6 members. 3 are from MariaDB Foundation. In this situation, they cannot have an independent opinion on MariaDB Corporation actions.

A curious aspect is that they declare they follow Ubuntu Code of Conduct. Please read its last paragraph and drawn your own conclusions.

My position on MariaDB and MaxScale

I am still grateful to MariaDB Corporation for creating and maintaining MariaDB (and to some of their engineers for creating MySQL).

From a technical point of view, they have many interesting features that are not in MySQL. Some of them come from the community, for example the CONNECT engine and their implementation of encryption. And the reason is that MariaDB is very open to the community.

Which brings us to a less technical point of view: MariaDB openness. Their JIRA account allows us to see the bugs (including their current status…). You can also see who is working on what, when next versions will be released, and what they will have. The team is active on the mailing lists and IRC. The documentation is a wiki and the license is free.

I have been a MariaDB supporter for years. I wrote Mastering MariaDB and I am one of their Community Ambassadors chosen by Colin Charles (who recently left MariaDB). Will my position about MariaDB project change? I don’t know, it’s too early to answer. For sure, I won’t deny that its openness is amazing and should be a model for everyone. (And I hope this won’t change)

And my position about MaxScale has changed? Of course it did. I wouldn’t use it for personal projects. Of course I could provide support but, given the license change, it seems to me unlikely. There are free alternatives: ProxySQL, MySQL Router, HAProxy. PoxySQL is by far the most interesting, if you ask me.

My position has changed forever? The answer depends on another question: will MariaDB fix its big mistake? I have no logic reasons to be optimistic, but I still hope it will. In the past they have apparently been open to criticism. After a complain in this blog, they made MaxScale binaries freely available, and I wrote a thank you post. What I couldn’t know is that they were preparing to close MaxScale next versions.


12 thoughts on “Thoughts on MaxScale new license

  1. Pingback: London Meetup – Open Source Communities: vendors and users working together – Federico Razzoli

  2. Pingback: 최근 mariadb maxscale의 bsl 관련 글들 | osskorea

  3. “I am still grateful to MariaDB Corporation for creating and maintaining MariaDB”: was it the MariaDB Corporation ( that created MariaDB Server ? I know they created MaxScale (well, SkySQL did and SkySQL was renamed, but I think MariaDB Server was created a long time before that.

      • I do not know the full history of the MariaDB Server, but I think Monty Program was involved, and then SkySQL, and then

        I was mostly struck by the affirmation “MariaDB Corporation creating MariaDB [Server]”. The maintaining part is correct, but the creating part is as right (or false) as Oracle creating MySQL.

  4. I’m also not entirely clear why people think MariaDB development is entirely open. Can you find any JIRA or mailing list discussion about the license change before it happened? License changes don’t just suddenly happen in open source development.

    I’ve already documented my thoughts on the MariaDB bugs system here:

    Whether you give MariaDB the benefit of the doubt and assume that all we cannot see is appropriate or not will depend on your feelings towards MariaDB.

    • I don’t see that kind of discussion from any company I know. And if I was a manager I wouldn’t certainly make them public. I don’t really have any problems with MariaDB in this respect. But the BSL is a bad, radical change, in my opinion.

      • Hi JFG,

        That wasn’t the case when I asked who owned the new system back in February. Maybe you have information that it’s changed since, but Sergei Golubchik responded at the time that the system was jointly owned. I still see non-MDEV projects in that JIRA system, so my belief is that nothing has changed. It’s just another example of confusion between the boundaries of the foundation and the corporation.

    • Yes kudos to Justin for a lot of reasons, including ensuring that a GPL branch of MaxScale remains public. But I don’t think he will fix bugs or develop new features. GPLScale will become an alternative if/when someone start to maintain and improve it, in my opinion.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s