Article

Sun, MySQL users ponder blockbuster acquisition

Mark Fontecchio, News Writer
Sun Microsystems Inc. has acquired MySQL AB, the maker of the MySQL database management system, a move that Sun hopes will make it a more substantial player in the database market. But as these forces

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join, it also raises questions for IT shops juggling diverse hardware, database and operating system platforms.

For more on MySQL:
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Mastering MySQL: 10 essential tips

PostgreSQL or MySQL: Which is faster?

The acquisition is expected to cost the Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun about $1 billion to enter the $15 billion database market. Meanwhile, MySQL can get the support and development muscle that comes from a relationship with a major IT hardware and software vendor.

With the acquisition, Sun has gotten a foot in the door of the LAMP stack, which includes Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, and is the "preferred architecture componentry for Web applications," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at Denver-based RedMonk. Furthermore, Sun and MySQL can now both benefit from the ability to sell the database management system to Sun's enterprise customers, who may have been tentative about going with MySQL when it was on its own.

It's long overdue. Sun has needed to integrate a database into its stack offering.
Ted Nichols,
CIOSkyWay Systems Inc.

How the move will affect existing Sun and MySQL customers is yet to be seen, although Sun officials say it will be for the better. Simon Phipps, the company's chief open source officer, said that he sees only positives from the acquisition. But over the coming months, Sun and MySQL have to tackle various issues concerning integration and compatibility between operating systems and database programs.

Solaris and MySQL integration
MySQL already runs on Solaris, but Phipps said it's too early to say whether MySQL will be bundled with future iterations of Sun's Solaris operating system. But he did say that Solaris customers can expect to find it "very easy to add MySQL onto their support package and get industrial-strength database support."

Ted Nichols, chief information officer for SkyWay Systems, Inc., said he would expect integration. The Westminster, Colo.-based SkyWay provides communication between vehicle owners and their vehicles, similar to OnStar. His company currently runs MySQL with Solaris 10 on top of Sun Fire T2000 servers, so he's happy about the announcement.

"In fact it's long overdue," he said. "Sun has needed to integrate a database into its stack offering. My expectation is that they would take the product and fold it into the Java enterprise suite, Solaris and the monolithic software stack that they sell and it would become an integral part of what they ship. Otherwise they'd be spending a lot of money for … I don't know why."

What about PostgreSQL and Java DB?
But wait -- doesn't Sun already support an open source database system? Yes, two of them, actually: PostgreSQL and Java DB. So the question becomes whether PostgreSQL and Java DB users will get pushed out in favor of MySQL. Sun says no.

"What this means is that databases become a full-focused business inside Sun," Phipps said. "Before, you could characterize our relationship with databases as marginal. We were building a strong PostgreSQL, we were working on Java DB, but from inside the company, you could see that it wasn't a mainstream focus of ours. With the acquisition, it means Sun will be a strong player in databases, so it means an increase in focus on PostgreSQL and Java DB, not a decrease."

Josh Berkus, a Sun employee and one of the main PostgreSQL developers, underscored this idea in a blog on IT Toolbox. In it, he wrote that Sun has no plans to drop PostgreSQL support and that he will not move into MySQL development.

Sun customers running Oracle
Sun hardware has long been a popular destination for Oracle databases, but Phipps said that many Sun/Oracle customers also run MySQL. Oracle is available as a large database engine running mission-critical tasks, while application server databases tend to be MySQL and PostgreSQL.

A 2006 survey of Oracle users by the Independent Oracle Users Group corroborates Phipps' claims. One-third said they were already using MySQL, while another 9% said they were using PostgreSQL. Yet 40% said they didn't use open source databases and had no plans to do so.

O'Grady said that historically MySQL has been careful not to position itself as an alternative to Oracle, but rather as an another option."If you're a Sun/Oracle user, really the deal has minimal impact," he said. "Are they competitive in certain cases with all of the above -- meaning Oracle, SQL Server and DB2? Yes, they are. But if you look at some of the more popular startups -- Google and YouTube, folks of that nature -- those are not instances typically where they're competing with any of the above."

MySQL, Linux and the future of support
Then there's the question of whether shops running MySQL for Linux will get pushed to Solaris or Sun hardware. O'Grady said that prospect is unlikely, adding that both Sun and MySQL recognize that the vast majority of customers running MySQL do so on Linux. Sure, if MySQL customers move to Solaris, Sun won't rebuff them. But O'Grady doesn't think Linux users need be concerned.

Thomas Jinneman, the IT director at RightNow Technologies, isn't worried about it. RightNow, which provides hosted customer relationship management (CRM) software, runs MySQL on Red Hat Enterprise Linux using x86 rack-mount servers from Dell and Rackable, and Jinneman is confident it will continue to be supported.

"Sun has proven themselves to be fairly open source-wise," he said.

Jinneman's reaction to the acquisition was fairly neutral, but he was "happy to hear that Sun bought [MySQL] instead of Oracle buying them." But he still has concerns.

Still, Jinneman's principal worry is support and, in particular, whether those at MySQL will leave because of the acquisition. "There's a little concern that perhaps there will be … a brain drain if some … MySQL employees decide that they don't want to work for Sun," he said.

SkyWay Systems' Nichols disputes that, saying that any good open source community has experts everywhere, not just at the company providing the software. For Nichols and SkyWay, it has been easier to conglomerate support contracts from its open source components – MySQL, Apache and JBoss, among them – into one handled by a third party, OpenLogic. He doesn't imagine that things will change because of the acquisition.

"It simplifies our support infrastructure and makes for a better business relationship and strategic relationship with our support providers," he said. "We become less of a customer and more of a partner."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Server Specs blog.


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