On 20 April 2009, Oracle Corporation announced its acquisition of Sun Microsystems in a deal worth about US$ 6 billion. This would have been just another one of corporate mega-deals that sound interesting in the news but really have no effect on your life. Except for the fact that with the purchase, Oracle acquired the world’s most widely used open-source database engine- MySQL. About 12 million small databases, mainly in websites and small businesses, run on the open-source MySQL platform, since it is stable, easily adaptable and most important of all for cash-strapped small companies, free. Note that ‘free’ here means that there is no software license to purchase (unlike commercial database engines like Oracle DB and Microsoft SQL Server), but most customers still have to pay third-party vendors for additional services like user interface design, technical support, bug fixes and so on. This is what makes the open-source model paradoxically both free and profitable.
First of all, why did Oracle buy Sun Microsystems? The main reason for the purchase was to get Sun’s major products- Sun hardware, Solaris and Java. The SunServer+Solaris+Oracle combination (especially the Oracle database), is globally used in mission-critical systems, from banks to hospitals to nuclear power stations, because of its stability and robustness. It is perhaps the most trusted combination of hardware, operating system and database there is. Java is also a key platform and supporting component for several Oracle products, for example Oracle’s Fusion Middleware is wholly built to run on Java.
So the MySQL acquisition was not really the focal point of the purchase, but it was nevertheless an important aside. Sun itself acquired MySQL in 2008 for about US$ 1 billion, Oracle now owns both of them. While Sun was known for its commitment to open source software, Oracle is a corporate giant without a track record for supporting open-source initiatives. So there arose understandable concern within the IT community about what will happen to MySQL. Will Oracle try to kill MySQL so that it does not compete with Oracle’s own offering? Will Oracle help to develop MySQL further as a platform? Will they leave it alone and not be bothered? Will they sell it off to another company? The real answer right now is that nobody knows, except perhaps Oracle senior management.
Let us now examine the different outcomes being put forth by pundits. The first one, from insiders like IHL Consulting Group President Greg Buzek, is the glum opinion that Oracle will kill off MySQL because it partially competes with Oracle’s own database engine. Matters are complicated more by the fact that even though Oracle is mainly bought by large organizations (whose chief concern is system stability, vendor robustness and support, and not the software license fee), while MySQL is primarily used by small companies and small websites, its development has recently scaled up and MySQL can now offer enterprise-class computing, which then becomes a major headache for Oracle.
Another reason given for Oracle deciding to bury MySQL is that the company is not really a supporter of the open-source model, instead preferring the tried and tested pay-per-license route. In fact Oracle is viewed with some suspicion in the open-source community- a sort of mega-corporation bent on world (software) domination. This is the chief cause for concern for the MySQL community. However, Oracle does have some redeeming acts in its interaction with open-source products. For example, the company has fully supported development of its software products to run on Linux.
The second possible outcome is that Oracle will continue to encourage and support MySQL development. One argument for this is that MySQL, as part of the Sun purchase together with Java and Solaris, offers Oracle CEO Larry Ellison a weapon to fight his main rival Microsoft. Also, don’t discount the fact that Oracle is keenly aware that MySQL is open-source, meaning its source code and original developers are still around. So even if Oracle were to try and kill MySQL, either by stopping development or by licensing and charging for it, the development community can simply start working on an open-source, similar clone application. This is how Linux itself was originally conceived- as a free spin-off of commercial Unix operating systems.
A third possibility is that Oracle executives may decide that MySQL is simply too much bother, and decide to sell off the company to someone else. Sun Microsystems acquired MySQL for about a billion dollars, and Oracle may decide that since MySQL was not the main reason they bought Sun anyway, they might as well dispose of it for roughly the same amount.
A fourth possible outcome is that Oracle may elect to offer support contracts and consulting on MySQL to companies that need a lighter-weight solution than Oracle’s full, and at times bloated, database products. In this way, they offer the comfort of their large-vendor status to the potential clients who may be worried about using open-source software- a shrewd market-capturing move.
But that same decision may have its own potential pitfall. Oracle’s main reason for buying Sun was to integrate and sell whole computing platforms. But IT managers might choose to avoid this one-vendor offering, from server to database application to support services, because it can also result in a single point of failure or arbitrary price changes in the platform’s licensing.
In conclusion, the truth is that simply don’t know what Oracle will do with MySQL. There are several interesting alternatives, some more viable than others. But it is safe to assume that in the short-term, Larry Ellison will not take any drastic steps that may alienate his huge client base. Only time will tell.
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Reference : Pinal Dave (http://blog.sqlauthority.com)