As you might have noticed, MySQL today announced a new offering. In a nutshell, they now have a Community Edition and an Enterprise Edition. The first is free and has external contributions. The second is something you pay for and fully owned by MySQL. That looks a lot like Red Hat, but - in reality - it is still really different. I have been exchanging emails with Marten in the last few days about the topic and I am fully convinced this is a smart move. It actually creates a model which is an improvement over Red Hat, in my opinion.
On the surface, it looks like MySQL is moving into the Red Hat model. The difference is that the source of Red Hat is Linux. They do not control it. There is nothing they can do about it. They then take it and wrap it around as Red Hat Enterprise. It is still GPL (they have no chances, they must release it as GPL, they do not own the IP of Linux) and people can take it even for free and build an identical product (see Centos). The only way Red Hat can defend itself is by enforcing its copyright on the Red Hat logo (and they are really aggressive on it, rightly so). Pretty weak but it seems to be working well for them - for now.
In July, I wrote a post about my way of doing dual licensing. That is working nicely for Funambol, with our Community Edition and our Carrier Edition. Nice separation of church and state. Everybody is happy.
MySQL is doing something similar. MySQL controls and owns its code. They are now opening the Community Edition to the world. They will still control that, though. And decide what goes into the Enterprise edition. That is the product they will sell. They can license it, not just get subscription for it. This can still generate revenues of a different scale (I am still a fan of software licensing and its margins, sorry), way beyond Red Hat (which is a nice business, do not get me wrong). It is a defensible strategy with full control of their future (they can change it when and if they want). The risk is that the move might screw up their ability to do dual licensing, if they are not careful. They won't control the full IP anymore on the Community Edition, so they will have to cherry pick for the Enterprise Edition (or buy out developers, but it did not work out that well with InnoDB...). It is called tight-rope walking (or funambulism), but Marten and Zach are two of the smartest people in the open source world and I know they will make it happen, no matter what.
Go dual licensing. Go MySQL. We just want to see you public before the end of 2007 ;-)