Oracle-Sun Deal Gets Mixed Reaction from MySQL Community

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-04-23

Oracle-Sun Deal Gets Mixed Reaction from MySQL Community

SANTA CLARA, Calif.-All a reporter had to do on the final day of the MySQL 2009 Conference here at the Hyatt Regency was walk up to someone wearing a conference badge, request a minute of their time and ask a simple question: "Oracle  good, or Oracle bad for MySQL?"

The question was generally met with a smile first, then a measured, thoughtful response. Answers were interesting, to say the least, ranging from an absolute "No way" to equally absolute "Yes, it will be great for MySQL," with lots of opinions thrown into the mix.

For those who've been away from the news this week, Oracle surprised many people by picking up where IBM left off in announcing April 20 that it will acquire Sun Microsystems for about $7.4 billion ($5.6 billion net, $9.50 per share). IBM had offered $9.40 per share (about $6.5 billion) and saw the offer rejected by Sun on April 4.

"I heard that one guy here sold his Sun stock right away," one MySQL admin told eWEEK during the conference. "Of course, he bought it at $4, and sold it at twice that! So I'm not sure exactly if he was that mad about the deal or just making a profit. Maybe both."

Anders Karlsson, a principal sales engineer with Sun based in Sweden who blogs regularly on database issues, told eWEEK that he thinks the move to Oracle is going to be "great" for MySQL and the open-source community in general.

"I used to work at Oracle, so I know how they think," Karlsson said. "They're a lot more involved with open source than many people believe.

"Taking over the leadership of MySQL will be a great move for them; now they will be able to offer the Mercedes of databases, Oracle DB, and have MySQL for smaller markets. It gives them a lot more options."

MySQL Will Still Make Oracle Money

Even though it will sell for a lot less than the enterprise database, Karlsson said, Oracle will still make money on MySQL and keep control of its former competitor.

"Let's say Oracle tries to sell a $4 million database system to a company, and they can't afford that much. So the customer ends up buying a MySQL setup for $100,000. Larry [Ellison] will still be happy because it's 100 grand for him and $4 million that IBM or Sybase didn't get," Karlsson said.

Several developers offered a "wait-and-see" opinion about Oracle's new involvement.

"I'm sorta scared by what could happen, but it's so early yet that nobody really knows what they're going to do," another DB admin said.

"The deal only happened three days ago. They might not even close it; IBM had trouble, too, don't forget," another fellow said.

One channel sales rep said he thought Oracle was going to be bad for MySQL.

"Owning MySQL doesn't really force Oracle to invest and improve its standard database," he said. "Their business is all driven by license sales. That's all they talk about. There's no motivation for the company to make its DBs any better."

Why is that?

"Because if a customer says he needs more horsepower from their Oracle DB to get the workloads completed on time, Oracle responds to them: 'Buy some more cores, and that'll fix the problem.'

"More license sales, not better products, is what Oracle's game plan is," he said.

MySQL: A Last-Resort Sale?

MySQL: A Last-Resort Sale?

Oracle will use MySQL as a last-resort sale, one man said.

"They'll dangle it out there as a final option, only if they cannot sell Oracle DB in some form," the developer said. "Then they'll come back in a year or two and try to upgrade you to Oracle 12, or whatever version they're on now.

"I don't think you'll be seeing them put any enterprise features into MySQL, you can bet on that."

Another MySQL admin said he thought having the financial backing of Oracle for the open-source database was good because Sun's finances were "kind of iffy."

"The main thing, I think now, is this: OK, so we have Oracle DB and MySQL now on the same side. That's a good team-up to fight against Microsoft SQL!" he said.

Roger Burkhardt, president and CEO of Ingres-a longtime MySQL and SQL competitor-said in an e-mail to eWEEK that "Oracle wants the Solaris operating system, and they want to control Sun's Java assets to compete with the strength of Microsoft's development ecosystem.

"The MySQL database and Glassfish Application Server come free with the package, and Oracle won't allow them to cannibalize the license revenues from their core database and WebLogic application server business," Burkhardt wrote.

"Glassfish/MySQL will be positioned as developer offerings that provide an easy 'on-ramp' to production use of Oracle's proprietary offerings. Customers won't see the long-term investments required to create a competitive enterprise-class mission and are likely to see MySQL make even more use of proprietary Oracle interfaces and management tools."

The bottom line to all of this? One DB admin at the conference had the absolute last word.

"It all depends on [Oracle founder and CEO] Larry [Ellison]. He's just going to do what he wants to do, anyway," he said with a smile.

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