Friday, November 13, 2009

Oracle and Sun Microsystems: Merger interruptus | The Economist

Another timely reality check from The Economist.  My $.02 follows the excerpt below.

The facts appear to be on Oracle’s side. It is hard to find anyone in the technology business who is prepared to argue that MySQL and Oracle really compete—or ever will. The commission is on firmer ground when it argues that the way MySQL is licensed would allow Oracle some control over commercial use of the program. Although MySQL and its underlying recipe are available free, any added code built around the open-source product must also be made open source. Most firms that develop products on top of MySQL prefer to buy a commercial licence that does not come with this obligation. This they obtain from the copyright holder, which would be Oracle. Because of the success of this “dual-licensing” set-up, a strong alternative to MySQL is unlikely to emerge.

My view:

1.  I believe most organizations that use MySQL pay for it (or should be paying for it).  Database developers who want truly free DBMSs have other options, e.g., PostgreSQL and the emerging forks of MySQL, such as MariaDB.

2.  While MySQL remains relatively lightweight, feature/function-wise, relative to the leading commercial DBMSs (from IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, in politically-neutral alphabetical sequence…), I believe MySQL actually is directly competitive with the commercial DBMS leaders for several database-centric application scenarios, especially relatively database-simple, volume-complex Web-oriented apps.  MySQL can’t compete for heavy-duty database scenarios such as full-blown ERP applications, however.

3.  There is a reasonable argument, imho, that even people making DBMS purchasing decisions for the relatively DBMS-lightweight Web-centric apps would be better served with a leading commercial DBMS (including free “express” DBMS versions from IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle) rather than MySQL, but the decision process is often made more on political convictions than objective total-cost-of-ownership assessments.

4.  The MySQL market momentum is likely to continue dissipating – yes, there’s a large MySQL installed base and a loyal community, but many of the key people who created MySQL in the first place are now happily focused elsewhere (e.g., MariaDB), and it’s unlikely, no matter what Oracle asserts publicly, that it sincerely wants MySQL to prosper, after it completes its Sun acquisition – no more than, for example, IBM wanted Geronimo to prosper after it acquired Gluecode.

So ultimately I agree with the conclusions of the Economist article, but for different reasons; I believe MySQL is a fading mirage, and that its best days are far behind it at this point, with or without Oracle at the helm.  As such, I frankly don’t think it would matter much if Oracle did agree to spin-out MySQL as a precondition of gaining approval to acquire Sun.

Oracle and Sun Microsystems: Merger interruptus | The Economist

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