Sun Microsystems Discusses Changes Afoot for MySQL Database

Sun Microsystems spent $1 billion to buy MySQL AB early last year. In recent days, the company has had two prominent names, Marten Mickos and Monty Widenius, announce their resignations. However, Sun says adoption of MySQL 5.1 is going strong and revealed some strategic plans for the MySQL database.

It's been roughly a year since Sun Microsystems acquired MySQL AB and brought the open-source database into its portfolio. A lot has happened in the ensuing months, from the release of MySQL 5.1 to the resignations of two prominent names long associated with MySQL, Monty Widenius and Marten Mickos.

But there are even more changes afoot, and officials at Sun want customers to know they are as committed to the database as ever.

At the center of the immediate changes is Karen Tegan Padir, vice president of MySQL and Software Infrastructure. Sun has moved to combine its software infrastructure organization with its database group to form a unified open-source product group.

The idea is to put MySQL into the mainstream of software at Sun and position the company to leverage MySQL, GlassFish and Identity Manager by tightly linking its software products together.

"The charter of the combined organization will be to deliver open platforms for Web-oriented architecture, spanning identity, applications servers, databases and application integration," Padir said. "With the unification of teams, Sun's strategy remains the same-to achieve ubiquitous distribution of innovative, easy-to-use, highly scalable, open-source-based application platforms to gain both market share and drive software revenue growth."

The strategy may remain the same, but MySQL's first year under the Sun umbrella has not been without its challenges. The most publicized of those challenges was the controversy around bugs in MySQL 5.1, which ended up having its general availability pushed back for a number of months. When it was finally released late last year, Widenius, a MySQL co-founder, criticized the number of bugs in the database.

"It is going to take a lot of hard work for Sun to focus people's attention on building and growing momentum behind MySQL, which didn't have the best first year under Sun thanks to delays to MySQL 5.1 and disputes about its quality," said Matt Aslett, an analyst with The 451 Group. "There are indications that changes are already under way to make the development process more open and ensure that delays are not repeated."

Sun countered at the time that not everyone in the MySQL community shared Widenius' view, and that the bugs were being worked on. In addition, Sun officials pointed out that there have been 2 million downloads of MySQL 5.1 since its general availability 11 weeks ago, and a recent update included fixes for dozens of bugs.

"We respect and share Monty's desire to be very conservative in not shipping a product before it's ready. ... To be fair, however, we had stringent requirements and tests for the quality of this release, and many different people both inside and outside Sun agreed that MySQL 5.1 was ready to ship," said a company spokesman.

"Even with this huge new number of people testing the product, the number of new MySQL 5.1 bugs being discovered and reported has not risen dramatically," the spokesman added. "That's a big deal."

Still some analysts paint a slightly different picture, and just how much the $1 billion investment has paid off depends on whom you ask.

"There was no clear strategy that showed how MySQL will be integrated with the overall Sun strategy or how to approach the enterprise market," said Noel Yuhanna, an analyst with Forrester Research. "Although, Sun has never been a database company, the expectations were set high. I believe that MySQL got buried among the other offerings from Sun."

Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg, however, said the announcements from Mickos and Widenius that they were leaving Sun doesn't mean there is cause for MySQL fans to panic.

"There has been an increase in the number of developers, and 5.1 has some very strong features," he said. "The core engine [OS distro] is getting better and increasing adoption. So I am not so sure that a couple of people leaving is so bad."