What does a company do when open source software that's an integral part of its IT infrastructure suddenly gets made proprietary? It looks as if some organizations are going to find out, if they've been using MariaDB in tandem with MaxScale, the database's proxy software that's all but necessary for deploying it at scale.
The database itself is safe and will remain licensed under the GPL, as it's a fork of MySQL with copyrights held by Oracle. MaxScale, however, was developed by the MariaDB folks, and since they own the copyright, they can do whatever they like. They've decided to change the license from open source to proprietary, beginning with the release of version 2.0 about a week ago.
There's no need to panic or to rush to make changes. Earlier versions of the software remain open source. But the upgrade path, both for usability and security, is now closed except to small users and those who cough up cash. This means that most enterprises utilizing MaxScale as an essential component of their IT infrastructure will have to decide whether to license the software going forward or to make other arrangements.
Michael "Monty" Widenius, the main creator of MySQL and the founder and CTO of MariaDB, tried to put the proverbial lipstick on a pig when announcing the change. The Business Source License being applied, "while not being an OSI certified Open Source license, supports the core freedoms of Open Source software – including making all code (not just some) openly available from day one. Anyone can modify, extend and compile the code, test the software and most will even be able to use the software for free. For MaxScale 2.0, one can use it for free if one uses it with less than three database servers."
Although this move caught nearly everyone by surprise, in hindsight it was probably to have been expected. When Widenius was calling the shots with MySQL, the database was licensed under the GPL but required a proprietary license for some commercial purposes -- a not uncommon practice. Since this isn't possible with MariaDB, releasing a key commercial component under a proprietary license with some open source provisions would appear to be a way for Widenius to return to a business plan similar to what has worked for him in the past.
Organizations dependent on MaxScale might want to wait a bit before making any decisions. Since the announcement was made on June 15, MaxScale 1.0 has been forked and is available on GitHub. If competent development begins on this in earnest, it might eventually be better to contribute to this project than to hand money over to the company that dropped a sudden surprise in its users' laps.