Monty Widenius officially leaves Sun's MySQL

While the database author and co-founder quits his job to start a more open company, MySQL still abides by the open-source principles that originally made it great.

It's official: Michael "Monty" Widenius has officially quit his job at Sun Microsystems, as noted on his blog, and will be starting his own company.

I reported in September that Widenius, primary author of the original MySQL database and one of MySQL's founders, had left, which proved to be almost true. He was leaving, but he didn't quite make it out the door.

As of Wednesday, he's gone.

The reason isn't any different from what prompted him to move toward the exit door in September, as he notes on his blog: Widenius feels that the company is not open enough and that the MySQL 5.1 release wasn't ready for public consumption:

The main reason for leaving was that I am not satisfied with the way the MySQL server has been developed, as can be seen on my previous blog post. In particular, I would have like to see the server development to be moved to a true open-development environment that would encourage outside participation and without any need of differentiation on the source code. Sun has been considering opening up the server development, but the pace has been too slow.

This is understandable but overlooks huge problems in developing software in the way Widenius expects. It's perhaps why his new venture--a small, family-oriented company with 10 to 30 employees--may succeed in living up to his aspirations for a "true open-source company," even as MySQL and Sun failed to live up to his ideals.

Widenius' ideals don't translate well to a big software business. There are trade-offs inherent to achieving the scale that MySQL has, and there are future trade-offs that will be required to make it into a billion-dollar software business. Widenius didn't want to make those trade-offs, and he has now done the right thing in leaving so that he can pursue his vision of the ideal open-source company. I respect that and wish him the best.

But let's not forget what an exceptional organization MySQL is, despite its inability to be the company Widenius wishes it were. Reading through Arjen Lentz's reminder of MySQL's decade-old core principles, I can't help but be impressed with how closely it has held to its original philosophies.

MySQL may have become too big for Widenius, but it has not become too big for its ideals.

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