Merged Sun-MySQL to be 'more attractive'

Industry watchers say MySQL buy fits Sun's software and services divisions, but one analyst says it is too early to predict impact on Asia.

Last week's acquisition of MySQL fits Sun Microsystems' software and services strategy, but it is too premature to tell how the merger will impact Asia, say market watchers.

Sharon Tan, Malaysia-based analyst for application tools market at IDC Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia that being incorporated into Sun's fold makes MySQL a stronger player in the enterprise space.

The merger also better pits the new entity against vendors such as Oracle, as some customers still prefer to purchase their mission-critical applications from bigger players, said Tan, in a phone interview.

Opportunities are vast for database vendors in the region, she said, noting that the relational database management system (RDBMS) market grew by "double digits" over the past year.

Citing prevailing IDC figures, she added that the Asia-Pacific RDBMS market, excluding Japan, was estimated to be worth some US$1.53 billion in 2007. The IDC analyst said the upward trend is expected to continue this year.

But, Tan said, it "remains to be seen" whether the MySQL acquisition will translate into actual gains for Sun.

"It won't be accurate to say Sun will be gaining a slice of the RDBMS pie [since] not many pay to use MySQL database," she said. The open source database is offered free, but customers pay an ongoing subscription fee for support and services.

Josh Farina, analyst at Technology Business Research (TBR), echoed Tan's sentiments, noting that "Sun's support for MySQL makes the offering much more attractive for enterprise customers".

However, Farina warned that Sun will face significant pressure from the top three database vendors: IBM, Microsoft and Oracle--in particular, the latter two.

"Microsoft has been taking share away from the open source databases at the departmental or small business level," U.S.-based Farina said in a research note. Microsoft's out-of-the-box integration with other pieces of its software stack is "a strong differentiator", he pointed out. Farina added that Sun's challenge will be to compete against Microsoft and restore luster to the MySQL brand.

Ovum senior analyst Laurent Lachal, called the acquisition a "bold, surprise move". He noted that Sun is targeting to be at the center of the "Internet economy" using open source software, in particular, the LAMP (Linux operating system, Apache Web server, MySQL database and scripting languages PHP, Perl or Python) stack.

"Sun [now] needs to act decisively to explain how the acquisition fits into a more clearly articulated software strategy and to competently execute on this strategy," Lachal said in a statement. "Microsoft and Oracle are not quaking in their boots just yet, but they should get concerned."

Noting that MySQL has been nursing IPO plans for about a year now, Lachal said Sun's buy was "good news" for the database company.

"Sun will provide it with the resources required--not just in terms of money, but also support and channel infrastructure--to go forward in the direction it has been following in the past two years, namely toward increasingly mission-critical deployments in large multinationals," he explained.

Layoffs ahead?
Lionel Lim, Sun's president for Asia South and Greater China, told ZDNet Asia that MySQL's technology would be integrated into Sun's software, sales and services organizations. Lim, who based in Singapore, said the merger is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of Sun's financial year, which ends in June.

While the Sun executive did not specify how the company's operations and headcount in the region will be affected following the acquisition, he said the company "is looking forward to bringing over as many MySQL employees as possible".

MySQL's global management team will join Sun, Lim said.

In the second half of 2007, Sun announced it would undergo restructuring to align resources to the company's strategic business initiatives. The execution of this plan is still ongoing, said Lim.

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