Former CEO: MySQL's Installed Base Will Keep It Independent

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-11-06 Print this article Print

In an interview with eWEEK, former MySQL CEO Marten Mickos says "there's no rational argument" for preventing Oracle from acquiring all of Sun, including MySQL with its open-source relational database software. The competitive pressure that MySQL exerts on the market will preserve the independence of the database no matter who owns the product, Mickos asserts.

While Oracle tussles with the European Commission over sanctioning its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems and the future development of the Sun-owned MySQL, industry stakeholders are posting pro and con opinions-mostly con, as it turns out-about whether Oracle can ever be a suitable home for the popular open-source Web database.

The EC, which serves as the antitrust regulator of the European Union, has been withholding its blessing on the deal until it is satisfied that MySQL will be allowed to innovate and compete fairly in the IT marketplace. The fact that Oracle's own proprietary database often competes directly against it is seen as a huge conflict of interest; obviously, this has been the crux of the problem.

However, few observers have more insight into the reality of the situation than M??ærten Mickos, currently an adviser to a major Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Mickos was CEO of MySQL for eight years and a major force in bringing it to world attention. He also guided it for a time within Sun after the company bought the Swedish franchise for $1 billion in January 2008.

Mickos on Oct. 9 wrote a letter to Neelie Kroes, the competition commissioner of the EC, advising the EC to sanction the deal.

In a Nov. 3 interview with eWEEK, Mickos made it clear that he is now in no way involved with MySQL, either as an investor or adviser, and is simply an interested observer at this point. However, knowing MySQL, Sun and Oracle and their respective communities as intimately as he does puts Mickos in a unique position to assess what should happen to MySQL.

"I don't specifically have an opinion on where it should be," Mickos told eWEEK. "I'm just saying that there's no rational argument for not letting the company who's buying Sun have all of Sun."

Does Mickos see a problem with the world's largest enterprise database maker-Oracle-swallowing its largest and most successful open-source competitor?

"They [the EC] see a problem, and I understand the questions, and the questions are good to ask, but I think also the answers are clear: Sure, MySQL as part of Oracle would be in a different constellation to some degree, but any company will have multiple scenarios going forward," Mickos said.

"The MySQL business is a very strong business, with enormous potential in the next 10 to 20 years. It can do fantastically well within Sun. It can do fantastically well within Oracle. It can do fantastically well on its own as well. I'm not speculating on what the best scenario is. I'm just saying that if somebody rightfully makes an acquisition, there should be no reason not to allow it."

Mickos said that the current estimate of installations is 12 million globally. Because MySQL is a freely available and downloadable software package, it is virtually impossible to chart how many deployments are currently being used in the world at any given time.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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