Sun was initially thinking of a commercial fork for MySQL with some enhanced things like encryption and compression backup for commercial users. Obviously this created some outcry. It appears they’ve now reconsidered and those features will be open source. To quote Kaj Arnö:
…expect Sun/MySQL to continue experimenting with the business model, and with what’s offered for the community and what’s offered commercial-only. We won’t always know the right answer from the beginning, but we want MySQL to be the most popular database for both paying and non-paying users.
The willingness to listen to community feedback, and look for a balance means Sun may not prove to be a bad thing for MySQL, of course time is the ultimate test. More than once a product has been written off after an acquisition only blossomed, or has failed when success seemed certain.
Balancing open source in business is no easy matter, both from producing and from consuming. It forces many people into new rolls, developers, visionaries into lawyers, and lawyers into tech savvy computer elitists. There’s no standard model for everyone to follow as every project and every company is unique. Striking a balance in such a dynamic and evolving environment is tough, when there’s no simple formula to help model business plans, it’s even more complicated.
Given open source adoption in the enterprise is on the rise, and corporate backing of open source seems to be following that, I suspect there will be some innovation in this field in the next few years as some of the more clever individuals find new ways to strike that magic balance.