I admittedly was caught off guard at Oracles recent acquisition of Innobase, makers of a transactional storage engine that works under the covers of MySQL, the popular open source database.
Many have speculated about the dark and terrible plans Oracle has to destroy MySQL.
Well, I have to say: give me a break! Oracle is many things, but one thing they can rarely be accused of is being stupid. The idea that by purchasing Innobase, Oracle could destroy MySQLs business model is just silly. In fact, to even pit MySQL as a serious competitor to Oracle at this time is a bit of a reach.
The fact is that with the release of MySQL 5.0, MySQL can now claim to be at functional parity with PostgreSQL but certainly not Oracle 10g. That is not a bad thing.
MySQLs real goal for the next few years is to definitively put an end to the question of which open-source database is the best. Only then can they seriously look forward to taking on the Oracles of the world. If they even need to.
For Oracles part, they have been very savvy about their support for open source so far. Their boldness in supporting Linux has changed the marketplace. I dont think it will end there.
By my count, they have done at least eleven acquisitions over the past two years, all of which seem to be getting the company ready for the next stage in its maturity.
Open source will be a huge weapon for Oracle in the coming years. It will enable them to lower the TCO of their solutions, while maintaining margins for them. I believe Oracle is embracing the open source model, and not trying to kill it as some may want to believe.
What does owning Innobase get Oracle? It plugs them into the strong community that has developed around MySQL, and yes, perhaps it will enable them to exploit it to their advantage.
But that does not mean its a bad thing for users. For example, they may use the Innobase team to develop even more storage engines for MySQL, which will even promote MySQLs growth.
They could then do what they do best, which is to sell options that plug into these storage engines. Features that are standard in an Oracle database could perhaps be offered a la carte through options to the storage engines they write for MySQL.
Why would Oracle want to grow MySQLs base? One word, Microsoft. MySQL is a bigger near-term threat to SQL Servers traditional base than it is to Oracles.
Oracle is a well managed company. Im sure they have looked at the numbers and see that Microsoft has too large of a channel and will accept a much lower margin point than Oracle is willing to live with.
By getting behind MySQL, they acknowledge the inevitable commodity stature of database at the low end and both hurt Microsofts dominance there while making money on options.
Heck, they could even design the storage engines so that they can easily be migrated to an Oracle database in the future.
Owning Innobase is certainly not a choke point for MySQL. The code was distributed under the GPL so the source is available to MySQL if they chose to move forward with it on their own.
However, they would be better off working with Oracle in the long term, as any association with Oracle only serves to further legitimize MySQL and will help it expand and dominate the low end of the database market.
Why does everyone think MySQL needs to compete with the Oracles and DB2s of the world? There is plenty of money in that market to go around.
Oracle is also transitioning itself. Obviously its putting much more emphasis on the applications market but I think increasingly we will see them attack vertical markets much more than they have in the past.
I think the acquisition of TimesTen was as significant as Innobase. This signals Oracles move into real-time data management, which will be huge in the coming SOA (service-oriented architecture) era.
So I think perhaps we all have blinders on, believing Oracle is simply a database company when in reality it is a software company.
If database software is not the place for growth, I believe Oracle has the will to move on to other things. I think they are laying the groundwork for that eventuality now. It is this very boldness that separates good companies from great companies.
Whether Oracle becomes one of the great corporate entities along with icons such as GE, Proctor & Gamble, IBM etc. remains to be seen.
Since 1988, their stock has shown compounded annual growth of almost 27 percent. This places Oracle in rare company, outpacing the S&P 500 which returned a CAGR of 11.26% over the same period.
One thing is for sure, open source is an organic movement and Oracle is not stupid enough to believe it can stop that.
Nor are they unwilling to make the hard choices required to survive and grow. If they can hurt Microsoft by doing so, all the better.