Subject RE: [ib-support] Longevity of firebird / Interbase
Author Tony Whyman
> -----Original Message-----
> From: lester@... [mailto:lester@...]
> Sent: 04 September 2002 08:02
> To:
> Subject: Re: [ib-support] Longevity of firebird / Interbase
> > We ust had a strategy meeting with a consultant today. We've
> adopted firebird
> > for out factory management system, and he was suggesting that
> because it is only
> > little known we should find something with a more stable future.
> Change your consultant! But there again if you can afford a
> consultant ...

I think that is very good advice. Predicting the longevity of any product is
a black art anyway and likely to fail. A few years ago. the same consultant
could easily have said that Netware would dominate the world and Netscape
would always be the world's leading browser. Having worked as a consultant
myself, I know that the temptation is to play safe and just recommend the
market leader or the product from the biggest kid on the block (guess who).
But the mark of a really good consultant is to think outside the box, tell
the client what is the "safe" recommendation (for the record) and then what
you really think.

The real danger is from proprietary products. Their supplier can fail or
just lose interest in a product and then where is all of your investment? On
the other hand, Open Source products will be actively supported as long as
there are users that are interested in them. You have the source code and
can even fix the bugs yourself if no one else is interested.

If you want a measure as to how active an Open Source product's support is
then don't look at just one web site in the community (as individuals come
and go) but look the postings in the newsgroups and email lists as they
truly reflect the interest and activity. As for the Firebird Support list,
since early February I have received 7748 messages on the list, which is a
pretty active community.

My own view (start of polemic) is that we have been through a process of
rapid evolution in terms of software development. As a result, the
functionality of a product that fulfils a given market niche has converged
on a stable set of functionalities and increasingly there is little room for
divergence between competing products. A monopoly is the inevitable result
of such a process. That monopoly can either be of a proprietary product or
of an Open Source "generic" that is owned and maintained by the community.

The generic has not just the advantages of cost but of stability. Look at
the new versions of MS Word, or Windows or even Borland's Delphi. Why do
these new versions exist when most users only wanted the bugs fixed in the
previous versions? The answer is that these company's need to maintain a
revenue stream and they can only do that by bringing out new versions of
their products and/or tweaking the licence conditions to extract more
revenue. But that is ultimately their undoing as the cost of both purchase
and of ownership (due to the instability created by the constant stream of
new and often incompatible versions) becomes unacceptable.

This not to say that there aren't new versions of Open Source products - the
rate of new Linux releases is not exactly slow. But these new releases are
driven by bug fixes and user requested enhancements and not a requirement to
raise revenue. Once convergence has been reached on a stable set of
functions and the bugs ironed out then the rate of new releases will slow

I believe that Open Source will be the winner not just because of its cost
advantage but because of the stability that is ultimately implicit in its
development model.

Will Firebird be the Open Source generic database? I think it has a good
chance of becoming so. It has a strong community behind it and is a
<expletive deleted> good product. MySQL is a possible alternative candidate
but is limited by its use of the GPL. For example, the MySQL licensing
policy says you need a commercial (paid for) licence if "You have a
commercial application that ONLY works with MySQL and ships the application
with the MySQL server. This is because we view this as linking even if it is
done over the network."

Why bother with MySQL when you don't have this problem with Firebird.

Tony Whyman
MWA Software