eWEEK Labs on IBM-Sun: Databases Would Feed Off Each Other

TECH ANALYSIS: IBM has DB2, not to mention Informix, while Sun Microsystems has MySQL. Will one trump the others? eWEEK Labs examines the overlap and synergies between IBM's and Sun's database platforms, and what customers should expect should an acquisition go forward.

What would a possible IBM acquisition of Sun Microsystems mean to the database software these two companies provide? eWEEK Labs has looked at the overall picture, and here I drill down into the database space.

Last year, Sun acquired MySQL, which is the maker of the open-source database MySQL. Although involved in the open-source PostgreSQL and Java DB projects, Sun previously had no database software. MySQL is available either as an open-source product or under a traditional (for-pay) license. The traditional license includes support and access to network monitoring software not available under the open-source license. Online reports claim that MySQL has more than 11 million installations.

IBM, of course, has its competing DB2 database technology, which is not open source. DB2 includes many different editions, including a mobile version and versions for Windows and Linux.

If IBM acquired Sun (and, in turn, the MySQL technology), it would not be the first time IBM acquired a competing database technology. In addition to DB2, IBM has Informix in its product stable. IBM purchased the Informix technology in 2001, and at the time reports said Informix had more than 100,000 installations. When this happened, I remember hearing concerns that Informix would be shuttered. But this did not happen. In fact, IBM has positioned DB2 and Informix separately, while sharing technology between them.

So, one might assume that IBM would do the same thing with MySQL, continuing it as a separate product. MySQL, in turn, could inherit some technology from DB2 and even Informix.

However, according to a report in late 2007, six years after the acquisition of Informix, the number of Informix installations dropped drastically, to 20,000, with no information from IBM about where these users went. (Did they migrate to IBM's own DB2 product? Did they switch to a competing product from Oracle or Microsoft?)

Should MySQL customers worry that they might find themselves forced to choose another product?

It's important to remember that this is Informix we're talking about, a product that has had a very difficult history.

MySQL, on the other hand, has positioned itself solidly, with an enormous (and rather proud) user base. It would be hard to imagine that MySQL users would migrate away from the database, especially those using the open-source license, considering that the product has remained solid (including the open-source licensing) even after Sun acquired it. Users didn't leave, and development on MySQL has continued.

Of course, we can't know for sure what would happen if IBM were to acquire Sun; all we can do is speculate. In my opinion, then, if such a deal does go down, MySQL would start to receive technology from DB2 and even Informix, and it would continue to grow as a separate product-comfortably positioned in the open-source world with optional licenses, just like it currently is under Sun.

More eWEEK Labs analyses about the effects of a possible IBM/Sun merger:

eWEEK Labs Examines IBM, Sun Product Synergies, Overlap

Storage Is the Key Technology

Open-Source Community Would Win

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