Sun's MySQL could thrive under Oracle ownership, analysts say

Open source MySQL database still has its place in enterprise data center

Despite competing against Oracle's flagship database management system, MySQL should be in good shape under Larry Ellison, analysts say.

One year after spending $1 billion to purchase MySQL, the open source database software company, Sun Microsystems is now being swallowed up by Oracle.  

Oracle's Database 11g will remain the company's flagship product, but that doesn't mean MySQL and its users will suffer under the hand of CEO Larry Ellison. In fact, MySQL could thrive under Oracle ownership, analysts say.

"MySQL is not going away," says Forrester analyst James Kobielus. "That's one of the key assets Oracle is buying here, and they know it."

MySQL has millions of users and a broad community of developers and third-party vendors that build products to leverage and enhance the open source database's capabilities, Kobielus notes. Oracle purchasing Sun may be seen as good news by MySQL users, who might have been concerned that Sun would not survive the economic downturn unless it was purchased by a more stable company, he says.

Computerworld blogger Sharon Machlis says MySQL users might fear that Oracle will try to lure customers to the higher-priced option, and fail to improve the open source MySQL because it competes against the flagship. Machlis points to a letter written Monday by Oracle President Charles Phillips, which discusses the value of Java and Solaris, but not of MySQL.

But IDC analyst Jean Bozman says MySQL customers shouldn't worry. There is room for multiple databases within enterprise data centers today. "The next-generation data center is all about 'and,'" Bozman says. "Linux and Solaris, and other operating systems. It's already a fact that in customer deployments there are multiple databases."

It's hard to predict exactly how Oracle will position MySQL, but the software will remain a vibrant part of the open source community, she says.

"Exactly what role [MySQL] will play in a new combined Oracle-Sun is hard to say," Bozman says. "However, we know already that MySQL is a key element of worldwide open source activity and is an important platform for application developers."

Oracle 11g is more scalable and mature than competing products, and is therefore the database of choice in large data centers, Kobielus says. MySQL is best for midsize businesses or departmental applications, in cases when users want to customize the source code for their own purposes, he says. Service providers may also use the MySQL database if they want to build features that Oracle doesn't provide out of the box, he says.

Oracle already owns multiple databases, including Berkeley DB, acquired in February 2006. Oracle has often taken the approach of acquiring direct competitors, including PeopleSoft in the CRM market.

Typically, Oracle is very careful not to alienate customers of the newly acquired entity, reassuring users of the product's viability before making any significant changes, Kobielus says.

"They're acquiring customers, they're bringing them into the Oracle juggernaut and then, over the course of several years, Oracle is rebranding and doing some cross-product integration," he says.

Kobielus urged Oracle to build new data warehousing appliances around MySQL, just as it has done with the Oracle flagship.  Oracle currently relies on hardware vendors such as HP and IBM to build appliances. But if the purchase of Sun is completed, the company will have all the hardware and software components necessary to build them, Kobielus notes in his blog.

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