Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oh MySQL, where art thou?

You’ve probably heard by now that Oracle has offered to buy Sun Microsystems for something north of $7 billion. The actual cost to Oracle is more like $5 billion when you consider Sun’s balance sheet. Sun is very receptive and its shareholders are expected to approve the deal. Sun’s continued existence has been on the minds of a lot of its customers, so this is happening at a good time and Oracle is getting a lot of great technology at a very good price. Sun’s hardware and operating system are a very popular platform with Oracle’s customers and Oracle has been trying to control their entire technology stack for a long time. This was the reason that Oracle became so enamored with Linux. If there’s a bug in Linux, they can fix it, not so with Windows or Mac OS X. And of course it gives Oracle the ability to sell the customer even more of the solution which not only makes Oracle more money, but also helps lock its customers even more firmly into Oracle’s solution.

This, of course, is not a marriage. Oracle, with a market cap of $97 billion dwarfs Sun whose market cap as of today is just under $7 billion. This is an acquisition and that means that Sun will disappear and Oracle will be calling the shots when it comes to all the technology they just bought. Since Monday’s announcement, Oracle has talked about Sun’s hardware and operating system, but it seems clear that Java is the most important part of this acquisition. I’m not saying Sun’s hardware and OS aren’t great too, but Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said, “Java is the single most important software we've ever acquired.” I think that says it all.

Statements that public companies make, especially when they are making an acquisition, are done very carefully. What Oracle said is important, but what they didn’t say is equally important. Oracle has made no mention of MySQL, which was acquired by Sun early last year. In fact, when the Wall Street Journal recently asked an Oracle Spokeswoman about the fate of MySQL post-acquisition, she had no comment. Since everyone is speculating, I’ll join the party. I see three possibilities:

1) Oracle has no idea what it will do with MySQL. This seems unlikely. Larry Ellison is a genius-level tactician. He always knows his next move.

2) Oracle has plans for MySQL that will benefit the MySQL community. This is possible but Oracle has never struck me as a company that waxes philosophic about how it can make the world a better place. Open source is only interesting to Oracle when it can make them more money. Larry Ellison has more money than he could ever spend at this point but he’s still #3 on Fortune’s 2008 list of the richest Americans. Larry wants the number one spot that is currently held by his arch nemesis, Bill Gates. MySQL appears to be generating a few hundred million in top line revenue per year. I don’t know how much profit they generate but even their top line revenue is peanuts compare do the $22 billion Oracle generated last year. MySQL is not going to help Larry get to #1, at least, not with anything close to its current annual revenue.

3) Oracle is going to do something with MySQL that the MySQL community is not going to like. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about all the reasons why Oracle wouldn’t kill off MySQL but they mostly sound like wishful thinking. If Oracle had plans to use MySQL to compete against Microsoft SQL Server in the mid-sized business market, they would probably have said so. They certainly wouldn’t announce they were going to kill it off prior to the acquisition being completed. That doesn’t serve them. And all this speculation is just more free press. Even if they plan to kill it off, they would likely just let it die a slow death.

In the long run, possibility #3 seems most probable to me. However, I can see ways in which Oracle might use MySQL to its advantage. But those ways all seem out of character for Oracle. There was a day when I could see Larry Ellison using MySQL to drive Bill Gates crazy, but Bill Gates is becoming increasingly distant from Microsoft, so product wars are just not going to have the effect on Bill they once did.

Many REALbasic and REAL Studio developers build cross-platform database applications. In fact, in a survey we conducted last year, cross-platform and database access were the two most popular reasons why users said they choose REALbasic. MySQL was the number one database server in that survey as well. In a recent post I discussed why we stopped supporting MySQL for a while so I won’t repeat that here. But we are supporting it once again because so many of you have asked us to do so. And now we are supporting both the Community (free) and Enterprise (commercial) editions.

With the fate of MySQL up in the air, I just want to let everyone know that as long as so many of you want us to support MySQL and the technology is available to allow us to do so, we will.

Since database applications are clearly important to REALbasic/REAL Studio developers, we have our own database server. Next week, we will ship a major new version REAL Server. This new version is as simple to install and administrate as ever and can handle a few orders of magnitude more users than the current release. REAL Studio comes with a license for REAL Server so that developers can build in-house client/server database applications without any additional cost. If REALbasic/REAL Studio developers that use MySQL should need a new server at some point in the future, REAL Server will be there. And of course, you don’t have to be REALbasic/REAL Studio developer to use REAL Server. I think REAL Server is better than MySQL in many ways but I’m obviously biased. You can check out the new release and decide for yourself.


Anonymous said...

"it was stated that Oracle believes that both MySQL and Oracle have different target audiences, and that therefore both of them will continue to be independently developed and marketed."

Geoff Perlman said...

But that was a comment by someone on the MySQL team at the MySQL User Conference. While it might turn out to be true, I wouldn't bet on it simply because it may just be more wishful thinking.

However, it is possible that Oracle does not see MySQL as in any way competing with their database business. But either way, things are going to change for MySQL, for better or for worse.

I've heard that the MySQL and Sun company cultures have not been a perfect fit. I can only imagine that Oracle's culture will be event less of a fit.

Only time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Many of the MySQL founders already left Sun.

MySQL is open source so, unlike a proprietary product like REALbasic or REAL SQL Server, it can't be killed off in an acquisition.

If Oracle doesn't do a good job of supporting MySQL, someone else will... perhaps the people who already know how.

Must be nice to sell your company to Sun for a billion dollars and then keep all of the IP because it's open source.