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.


MaxScale binaries are now available

UPDATE: Short story: ignore the next update and read the post. Long story: the original post was a mistake, as explained in the next update. But then, MariaDB released free MaxScale binaries and everything I wrote in the post is now correct.

UPDATE 2016-04-14: It seems that I was mistaken. MaxScale download page is a bit different from MariaDB Enterprise page, and does not explicitly require us to accept terms of use before download. But we accept those terms while creating an account.

So, MaxScale binaries cannot be used in production without paying for MariaDB enterprise. Thanks to the persons who commented this post and pointed my mistake. My apologies to my readers.

I won’t delete this post because I don’t want the comments to disappear, as they express opinions of some community members.

My jestarday’s post Comments on MaxScale binaries followed up a post from Percona’s blog. It had much more visits than any other post I wrote before. It was linked by Peter Zaitsev and Oli Senhauser on social networks. No, this is not a self-advertisement, I’m just saying that the problem I’ve talked about is considered important by the community.

Today, MaxScale binaries are available! Not because of me (obviously), but because MariaDB must have found out that the community badly wants those binaries.

MaxScale 1.4.1 was released today, and it is available from the Database Downloads page on You can click on MaxScale and then you can select the version (1.4.1, 1.3.0, 1.2.1) and the system (Debian, Ubuntu, RHEL/CentOS, SLES, both available as deb/rpm or tarball). Registration is required for download, but this is acceptable, as long as the binaries are freely available.

There are no restrictive terms of use. Here is how the copyright note starts:

This source code is distributed as part of MariaDB Corporation MaxScale. It is free
software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the
GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation,
version 2.

The only problem is the lack for a repository – but now that the binaries are freely available, I expect most Linux distros to provide their packages.

I downloaded the Ubuntu 14.04 version on my Mint machine, and everything worked as expected:

fede-mint-0 ~ # dpkg -i /home/federico/Downloads/maxscale-1.4.1-1.ubuntu_trusty.x86_64.deb 
Selecting previously unselected package maxscale.
(Reading database ... 184280 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack .../maxscale-1.4.1-1.ubuntu_trusty.x86_64.deb ...
Unpacking maxscale (1.4.1) ...
Setting up maxscale (1.4.1) ...
Processing triggers for man-db ( ...
Processing triggers for libc-bin (2.19-0ubuntu6.7) ...
fede-mint-0 ~ # maxadmin -uadmin -pmariadb
MaxScale> show servers
Server 0x1b7a310 (server1)
	Status:                              Auth Error, Down
	Protocol:                    MySQLBackend
	Port:                                3306
	Node Id:                     -1
	Master Id:                   -1
	Slave Ids:                   
	Repl Depth:                  -1
	Number of connections:               0
	Current no. of conns:                0
	Current no. of operations:   0

So, thanks MariaDB! I love software projects that listen to their community needs. This should be a lesson for another company – we all know who I am talking about.


Comments on MaxScale binaries

I’m writing this post after reading Downloading MariaDB MaxScale binaries, from Percona’s MySQL Performance Blog.

I was already aware about the problem: MaxScale is open source, but the binaries are not free. You can download them and use them for testing, but if you want to use them in production, you’ll need to buy MariaDB Enterprise.

Note that MaxScale Docker images seem to have the same problem. I’ve tried some of them, but all those I’ve tried were running MariaDB Enterprise binaries, so using them in production is illegal (unless you pay).

The alternative is… compiling MaxScale. I had problems in doing so and couldn’t solve those problems myself. From the MaxScale Google Group, I see that Justin Swanhart had the same problems… so I don’t feel particularly stupid for that.

After some questions on that group, 2 posts were published on MariaDB blog:

When I tried them, the first one worked for me, while the former didn’t.

But in any case, even if you are able to compile MaxScale on your Linux/BSD of choice, updates will be a problem. You will need to compile all next releases of MaxScale, which is simply not a viable solution for many companies.

This prevents MaxScale from being as widely used as it could be. The lack of free binaries is a problem. I understand their commercial choice – it is legit, but I don’t agree. First, because open source shouldn’t work in this way. Second, because the lack of free binaries could bring some customers to them, but… most probably, it simply prevents lots of people from trying MaxScale at all.

This would be negative for any software project, in my opinion. But I think that it is particularly negative for MaxScale. Why? Because it is amazingly versatile and writing a new module is amazingly simple. This combination of characteristics would make it greatly benefit from being widely adopted – people could write new modules and distribute them.

Please, MariaDB, reconsider this choice.