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Partners weigh Sun's acquisition of MySQL

Barb Darrow
Partner reaction was mixed to Wednesday's news of Sun Microsystems' proposed $1 billion acquisition of MySQL AB, the provider of a popular cross-platform database.

The deal -- Sun will pay about $800 million in cash and assume about $200 million in options -- is expected to close next quarter or shortly thereafter. Cupertino, Calif.-based MySQL helped pioneer the dual-delivery software model by offering its database under both commercial and open source licenses.

On the commercial side, there was some worry that Sun might hike licensing fees.

"My biggest fear is, they paid a billion dollars for this -- will they try to recoup that through higher prices?" said Martin Van Ryswyk, vice president of engineering for

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Electric Cloud, an independent software vendor (ISV) that embeds the commercial version of MySQL in its software production management tools. "Right now MySQL's the perfect price-performance for us," he added.

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Electric Cloud's alternative options would be Oracle's embedded database and Microsoft SQL Server, both of which are more expensive, he noted.

On the flip side, Sun might invest in MySQL to make it better, Van Ryswyk added.

Sheeri Cabral, a DBA with The Pythian Group, an Ottawa-based DBA outsourcing company, was surprised at the news. "I was shocked because they were heading down the road to an IPO," she said.

But Cabral discounts worst-case scenarios being bandied about that Sun ownership will weaken or close off MySQL. "Look, Sun has infrastructure, resources. It has developers who know a lot about the internals of not just Solaris but Intel. They know a lot about Linux. They have people working on Java that could make MySQL run better," she said.

Open source stalwarts say the MySQL acquisition, announced at a MySQL conference in Florida on Wednesday, will have no impact on their model.

"I don't see this as being all that stunning," said a Florida database specialist who asked not to be named. "Sun's pretty good about spinning out technologies like Open Office to the [open source] community -- although it took them too long [to do that] with Java. The truth is the open source model will continue regardless of who buys these companies."

A former MySQL partner in Boston said the MySQL acquisition surprised him but would have no impact on his business since he'd already moved on to more profitable Oracle work. He said he migrated because he couldn't make money doing MySQL work, and his view is "MySQL couldn't either."

MySQL competes with PostgreSQL and Pervasive DB in the open source realm and with Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server at the commercial/proprietary end.

MySQL CEO Marten Mickos has said a good chunk of the company's business comes from ISVs who embed the database in their own software and services. Such customers include Sage Group Nokia, Alcatel/Lucent, Cisco, ScienceLogic and the aforementioned Electric Cloud.

In the past year MySQL had been expected to go public, but several sources said it was not getting much traction.

MySQL executive vice president Zack Urlocker blogged on Wednesday that MySQL will continue to support all its current operating systems from Linux to Windows to Macintosh. He also pointed out that Sun and MySQL share many vendor partners, including AMD, Dell, Intel, Red Hat and even Microsoft and Oracle.

Urlocker sought to preempt speculation that Sun-MySQL will target Oracle. "While some folks might see this move as a competitive move against Oracle, I don't think that's the case," Urlocker wrote of the MySQL acquisition. "MySQL has never attempted to compete head-on against the big DBMS companies. Instead, we've focused on our appeal to Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Telco and Software as a Service or on-demand companies. In many cases, MySQL co-exists with traditional database offerings."

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz on his blog noted that Sun is "putting a billion dollars behind the M in LAMP."

LAMP is the Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl software development platform that open source proponents push as a better alternative to Windows and proprietary Unix.


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