Tony Bain

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Speaking with Monty

February 22, 2009 | Tony Bain

Last week I spent some time talking to Michael “Monty“ Widenius (co-founder of MySQL) about his decision to leave Sun.  The bulk of the forward looking aspects of this conversation are going into a post I am preparing for Read Write Web.  This should be out sometime next week. 

While I didn’t want to focus what happened in the past too much in this article I thought I would post some of my own personal assessments I took from my conversation with Monty here.  They are as follows:

  • As almost everyone who meets Michael concludes, Michael is a nice guy.  He is transparently open and a pure believer of a common good.  He epitomizes the true meaning of open source, which is much more than a licensing model but is instead a methodology for a shared collective.
  • MySQL started life as a community developed project, but since 2001 this has steadily decrease to the point where most MySQL development now happens at Sun/MySQL.
  • This has not been something Michael has supported, over time he has pushed harder and harder for the community focus to return to MySQL.  If Sun or MySQL management (Michael was not the CEO) shared this vision or not is unclear, however I think Michael felt he was being constantly delayed from addressing this.
  • I think Michael believes the long term future of MySQL is dependent on regaining MySQL community involvement.  I think he felt so strongly about this that he believed he had to leave Sun to achieve this.
  • I believe Michael left Sun because he felt the long term future of MySQL (his baby) was at risk if he didn’t take action to address some of his key concerns.
  • His public criticism of the release of MySQL 5.1 with “issues” still present appears to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
  • It seems some of the MySQL employees didn’t personally do as well as liked out of the MySQL/Sun merger.  In Michael’s vision for how a company should operate, all employees should share in the success of a company.
  • I think much of what Michael believes to be the “right way” to do things was always going to be somewhat incompatible with a traditional large company, especially a traditional large public company.
  • A few days after Michael announced he was leaving Sun, Marten Mickos (the MySQL CEO) also announced he was leaving Sun.  Less than a year on the integration of MySQL into Sun appears to be only part done, how this integration continues I think is now a new concern.
  • It has been reported that a number of employees (especially those working on Maria) are likely to follow Michael to his new company.  This appears to be accurate.
  • Some media outlets also reported that a number of employees were also likely to follow Marten.  This seems to be confusion in their reporting, and is instead unlikely.

As I mentioned the forward looking aspects of the future of MySQL will be addressed in a subsequent post.