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

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.

marten-mickos84dpi.jpg

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

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...