Interpreting recent open source IPO buzz

* Latest open source companies going public

Open source IPS maker Sourcefire is now a publicly-traded company, with its IPO last week on the Nasdaq. Meanwhile, reports say that open source database company MySQL is thinking about a similar move.

Open source IPS maker Sourcefire is now a publicly-traded company, with its IPO last week on the Nasdaq. Meanwhile, reports say that open source database company MySQL is thinking about a similar move.

You could call these developments a sign that open source technology - beyond Linux and Apache - are now serious business; either that, or this the harbinger of a 2001-style high-tech industry bust.

Sourcefire's IPO, which happened March 8, sold 5.77 million shares at $15 per share and raised $71.8 million - around $3 more per share than analysts expected. Trading of the stock started flat as of Friday, March 9, but grew slightly during the day.

Reports also say MySQL has begun to talk with investment bankers about an IPO, after it has amassed a total of $39 million in venture funding. Some analysts are predicting an offering could come sometime this year.

The last big round open source companies going public happened around the 1999-2000 time frame. Red Hat made its IPO debut during that time, but so did Caldera and VA Linux System.

One big difference from the 1999-2000 open source IPOs is that MySQL and Sourcefire are used widely and accepted by customers.

Sourcefire and SNORT are used to defend thousands of enterprise networks, as well as the Department of Defense. (The U.S. government is such a serious Sourcefire customer, that it blocked the proposed $225 million sale of Sourcefire to Checkpoint a year ago, because it is a foreign company). MySQL - the M in the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack, is an industry standard database for many Web 2.0 companies; MySQL as a company says it gained 2,500 new customers last year.

Market buzz built around Linux during the tech bubble because of the potential of the technology, not so much on the success of the technology in the market. Perhaps the performance of Sourcefire and, possibly MySQL, on the open market will prove to be more pop-proof.

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