Ellison puts Screven over mySQL

A start-up subsisting on pizza, even a small open source project, can be discovered by the masses and become world famous within a year. Will there be an easy migration path, or will that path be slammed shut? Ask Edward Screven.

Turns out the biggest surprise in the Oracle-Sun drama was not the split within open source over mySQL.

It was the split within Oracle over mySQL. (Picture from Oracle's Collaborate 2007 event.)

Ken Jacobs, who was one of CEO Larry Ellison's first 20 hires, says he is leaving the company after seeking to run mySQL and being turned down.

Jacobs gets credit for keeping InnoDB moving forward after its 2005 acquisition. This was a big win for open source.

InnoDB was an integral part of mySQL, and there were fears then Oracle planned to box-in mySQL by controlling its storage engine. But that didn't happen, Oracle was able to claim open source bonafides.

Now Edward Screven, Oracle's chief corporate architect, is in charge of mySQL, which could lead to the same fears expressed over InnoDB when Jacobs took it on.

Screven, however, also has some open source mojo. He was interviewed by Linux Foundation head Jim Zemlin in 2008, touting the company's commitment to Linux. "We didn’t view GPL as something that was going to get in the way of business in the least," he told Zemlin.

Trouble is that while Linux is an enterprise product, and has long had substantial server market share, mySQL began as something smaller and simpler, not scaled. The code base was moving toward greater scale before Oracle bought it, but during the debate even open source advocates like Matt Asay admitted it wasn't a direct competitor.

This was always at the heart of the dispute. Would open source be allowed to develop a true competitor to Oracle? Would Web start-ups have to make a costly switch from open source as they scaled, or commit to open source in their business plans, raising costs substantially?

Internet success happens in Internet time. A start-up subsisting on pizza, even a small open source project, can be discovered by the masses and become world famous within a year. Will there be an easy migration path, or will that path be slammed shut?

Ask Edward Screven.

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