Paying for Software Support - When to do it?

For a long while, the MySQL Database Server is the choice of start up developers. Since it can be used under the GPL model, it seems free to use it. But is there a point where one would pay for MySQL.

Here is an analysis of the conditions under which it would be wise to invest in software support, through the example of MySQL
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The popularity of MySql is mainly due to it's seamless use with web applications, which is closely tied to the popularity of PHP, which is often combined with MySQL. Also, it is quite often deemed a cheap solution since it can be freely downloaded and installed, since it can be used under the GNU General Public License (GPL) license.

So do you need to pay anything with MySQL? While the first answer is no, since you can use it under the GPL license, any serious user will soon have a wealth of information stored in a MySQL Database.

Here is an analysis based purely on costs of licenses vs value of information


A common misconception based on simple logic is that the point in which the value of the stored information is higher then the value of the MySQL server, it makes a sense to invest in support and services for MySQL.

However the following diagram presents the flaw in the previous logic:


  1. Up until the time the value of stored information reaches the cost of licensing, the company was generating revenue, but with risk to the data.
  2. Should the company decide to license the server software at the time the value of stored data matches the costs, it will cease to be profitable. Even if the growth of the company continues as planned, it will take time to reach the level of profitability it had prior to licensing.
  3. As the value of stored information continues to grow, it reaches a point where the the costs of licensing become stable over time. This is a good point to invest in licensing and services, since the licensing costs can be factored into the price of the information as a fixed item and will not increase the price of information significantly
Of course, this is not the only approach. The diagram may be quite different if the licensing increases the value of the stored information (For example, adding some enterprise features of availability or integrity)

Such changes will merit licensing at a much earlier point in time.

Talkback and comments are most welcome

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