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You’ve Got Six Months (if You’re Lucky!)

By Carsten | March 26, 2008

Ronald writes:

Tonight we were told at the NY PHP Meeting MySQL 5.1 is not due to late Q2, so that’s at least June 2008. The MySQL 5.1 Release Notes reveals a history that I don’t find very flattering…

Aside from Ronald’s totally correct observations re. the MySQL release schedule in general, “late Q2″ leads lots of current 5.0 users to a rather “interesting” situation, dictated by a questionable decision on the part of the MySQL marketing team several years back: If “late Q2″ sticks , then you’ve got just over 6 months to do the switchover to 5.1 before 5.0 goes EOL.

Back in 2006, it was decided by the MySQL marketing department that from now on, major versions of MySQL should have a lifetime of 2 years from their GA release date until they were declared EOL to non-network subscribers. This caused a lot of protests from almost everyone on the engineering team and most everyone else with a reasonable insight into MySQLs ability to make GA releases.

(At this point, I should perhaps point out to those that don’t know me, that I worked for MySQL from 2002 until late 2007.)

After overruling those protests, said marketing people published what is now known as the MySQL Lifecycle Policy. At that time, it had a lot of other problems (such as using Capitalized Words for things like “Major Release” and “Severity Level” without ever defining what was actually meant by those terms). Happily, most of those other issues have been addressed over time, but that stupidly optimistic 2-year time frame still remains.

So what does that mean for MySQL 5.0? Well, according to said policy, 5.0 was released on Oct. 24, 2005 and that active support for that product ends on Dec. 31st 2008. If you happen to hit a bug in 5.0 that seriously disrupts your setup, you’d just better hope you have time to implement a workaround. If it’s something that brings your systems to a total halt, MySQL will decide whether they think it’s worth their time to deal with it. If you have bought an “extended lifetime” insurance.

Presuming that the “late Q2″ date holds, this means that you’ve got slightly more than 6 months to do your testing and re-deploy all your existing applications.

Such is the price for letting the marketing department make long-term decisions without regard to the real world around them.

And now we all get to pay the price for that decision. Personally, I’m in the happy situation that I was able to convince my employer to run a new version of one of two major systems on 5.1-Beta several months ago. We will have the chance to do so over the next several months for the other as well, which is receiving a major overhaul anyway. But that is pure coincidence, and the timetables might as well have been removed by a year from those dates. I’m happy that I’m not in the shoes of major MySQL users out there who happen to be in a much more constrained situation.

I’m also happy that I’m not one of those people in the MySQL support team who will undoubtedly have to deal with a lot of unhappy customers over the next several months. Those guys are fantastic, but this is going to take a toll on them.

It’s completely reasonable that MySQL sets an EOL date for a major version when a new one comes out. You can’t expect a software company to keep upgrading old versions forever. But that EOL date should be set when you have a firm release date for the next version, not three years ahead of time when you don’t have a clue as to when the next version is actually going to be available.

Don’t get me wrong: I have the deepest respect for many members of the MySQL marketing team. They have had a key part in moving MySQL to where it is today as a viable alternative to the Big Iron databases in the enterprises. Even more importantly, many of the same people have done an absolutely amazing job within MySQL, working as customer advocates toward the engineers and others who might sometimes have problems understanding what the world is like outside their own narrow scope. They deserve a lot of kudos for that.

But the decision to implement a 2-year EOL date based on the release date of the product was as stupid then as it is now. We can only hope that other software companies, startup or otherwise, will learn from this.

Topics: MySQL |

7 Responses to “You’ve Got Six Months (if You’re Lucky!)”

  1. Bill Karwin Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Indeed, it would have been better to phrase the EOL of 5.0 in terms of X months after the GA release of the next version. What would be a reasonable overlap period? 12 months? More?

    One should also note that because the EOL policy has been published, it shouldn’t be a surprise that 5.0 is nearing its EOL. MySQL 5.1 beta has been freely available to any shops who want to test against it.

    So if a shop knows that it needs 9 months or 15 months or whatever to test their apps, they certainly have had the opportunity to schedule that testing with respect to the 12/2008 date. They don’t need to deploy MySQL 5.1 into production to test against it.

    Obviously testing against a beta product is different from testing with the GA version, and one should test with the actual product version you’re planning on deploying. So once MySQL 5.1 reaches GA, a shop has to re-test. But part of those months of preparation should have been spent creating thorough test plans and creating test automation. The workload to re-test should be much less, so it should be reasonable for a six-month rollout.

    And in any case, MySQL (now Sun) could offer an extended support period to provide a greater overlap between MySQL 5.1 GA and 5.0 EOL. Many companies do this.

  2. Carsten Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Bill,

    You’ll undoubtedly get as many opinions on the time frame as there are people that care, but personally I would consider 12 months to be a minimum GA overlap. It isn’t just about the development shops having time to iron out the last details; /their/ customers need time to deal with things, too.

    The EOL policy has been around for the better part of two years; I’m not sure I understand why you think that the publication of that is a sign of MySQL 5.0 reaching that point.

    MySQL (nee Sun) does offer an extended support period. But the terms of that extended lifetime contract seem to leave a lot of the decision power with MySQL, even if you get it. Since I don’t know the price, I can only speculate — but I doubt many SMBs will want to bet money on such a thing.

  3. jim Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    i don’t think it would be fair to lay this problem solely or even mostly at the feet of the marketing folks. at the time, as i recall, the engineering folks were telling them that 5.1 was going to be a quick release.

  4. Carsten Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    jim,

    It’s obviously not the sole responsibility of the marketing team; somewhere there’s an upper management (with members from Engineering, too) to make the final decision. But the project was certainly driven by the marketing folks. You and I seem to have different recollections as to who stated what. Or perhaps we just listened to different people :-)

  5. Rob Young Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Thanks for the post! As a clarification, all GA releases of MySQL are fully supported for a total of 60 months (5 years). The first 2 years are covered under active support which means MySQL customers receive monthly and quarterly maintenance releases to the Enterprise server as part of their MySQL Enterprise subscription. These fixes are batched and provided to users of the free Community Server on a less frequent, but still reliable, basis. The remaining 3 years are covered under extended support which means MySQL provides crash and security related fixes to both Enterprise customers and users of the free Community product. Active support for MySQL 5.0 was extended to 3 years in recognition that the 5.1 GA release may extend into 2008 (which it has). After 2008-Dec-31 extended support for 5.0 will continue on for 3 years as planned.

    Thanks again for your post!
    Rob

  6. Sheeri Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Well, given there are still many people on 4.1, nobody “has” to migrate.

    In addition, 12 months for overlap is way too short — many companies don’t even bother to look at a GA until it’s been GA for 6 months, so someone else gets the serious bugs out of the way.

    Also, I don’t think this will be a real issue, given that MySQL/Sun can’t reasonably say “we won’t give you support even if you give us money” for such a quick turnover.

  7. Carsten Says:
    March 27th, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Sheeri,
    You can’t purchase a support contract for a 4.1 installation. You’ll be asked to upgrade first.

    As for your last point: Presumably, there was a reason why the EOL policy was instituted in the first place.

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