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Open source continuity: Solid is dead, will solidDb survive?

March 07, 2008

Solid Information Technology is a database vendor founded in Finland in 1992. After operating as a pure closed-source company for 14 years, Solid announced in 2006 that it had adapted its storage engine to work with MySQL, and that it would be releasing the project as open source. The move appeared to be an attempt to capitalise on the confusion created by Oracle's purchase of InnoDB [dead link removed], also a MySQL storage engine. (It wasn't clear at the time what impact the purchase of InnoDB would have on MySQL.) After being acquired by IBM in January of 2008 [dead link removed], we now hear from Solid that it will be ending further development of the solidDB backend for MySQL. The code remains available through SourceForge. It looks like the company will cease to operate standalone.

This is not an open source story, but there's an important lesson here for all aspiring entrepreneurs using, or planning to use, open source as an aspect of their business strategy. Companies live and they die. They change directions in an effort to stay afloat or grow. They get acquired and assimilated by companies with different goals. Open sourcing a product is not enough on its own; it must be accompanied by community-building efforts. Such efforts are best carried out at the time the project is announced or open sourced, because that is when the project will be in the spotlight and resources will be available. If you care about the open source nature of your project then you need to realise that the clock is ticking from the moment you go live. Sure, your company may continue to go in the same direction for many years, but you never know if a disruptive change is lurking around the corner. If you want your project to survive, you need to ensure a healthy community forms before the change takes place. Without the protective shield of the community the chances of project survival are slim.