I just read the announcement that Sun has acquired MySQL for $1 Billion. Rather than just citing the facts and wishing that I was one of the founders of MySQL so that I could purchase that dream home in Florida, I'd like to consider what's really going on rather than simply pointing out that MySQL is an open source software product that has gone mainstream big time.
Warped, telescoped history of IT solutions
In the 1970s and early 1980s suppliers of computer technology offered tightly integrated, proprietary solutions. An organization needing a financial solution would call Boroughs (Now Unisys), IBM, NCR or Univac (Now Unisys) and order one. Hardware, software and consulting help would appear on their doorstep. It was possible to add other solutions from that company but, trying to get one company's solutions to work with a solution from another company wasn't a treat.
In the middle 1980s to early 1990s we started to see the emergence of companies that focused only on providing "best of breed" operating systems or database management or applications. The market rapidly splintered into layers and layers of technology, all developed by independent companies, all running on computers from a double handful of hardware suppliers.
We're now seeing the re-emergences of integrated solutions once again. Microsoft has been acquiring applications, tools and virtualization technology. Oracle has been acquiring applications and moving into being a provider of Linux and Xen virtualization technology. IBM has also been quietly acquiring companies to provide a complete solution as well.
Back to the story
With this as a back drop, it is clear that this move isn't about open source. It isn't about Web 2.0. It's about moving Sun from a provider of systems and some system software to Sun as a solutions provider. I expect to hear news of Sun acquiring applications some time in the future as well. The company is being forced by competitive pressures to make this move. It is not at all clear, by the way, that Sun + MySQL will be seen equal to IBM + DB2 or Microsoft + SQL Server by IT decision-makers. An important question for Sun is how is MySQL going to be integrated into Sun? At this point, it is a provider of software than runs on many operating systems and on systems from many hardware suppliers. If this remains the same, current customers and the open source community are likely to benefit a great deal. If MySQL becomes another Sun business unit whose goals are to push Sun hardware and Solaris, everyone, including Sun, will lose. There are many open source projects that offer respectable database technology including Axion, Firebird, MaxDB, PostgreSQL, Ingres and quite a number of others including an old friend, MUMPS (I was a software engineer at a company that created MUMPS-based solutions in the late Jurassic period)! If Sun tries to "squeeze" the users of MySQL, it is likely that these organizations will simply move to another platform and say goodbye to MySQL and Sun. Do you agree with my line of reasoning?