Sun, MySQL and the return of integrated solutions

Sun, MySQL and the return of integrated solutions

Summary: 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.


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?

Topics: Open Source, Data Centers, Data Management, Enterprise Software, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Software


Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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  • Why Squeeze?

    Why would Sun try to squeeze existing MySQL users - or even change the terms under which MySQL has to date been distributed? Sun can still eek out a solutions business built on MySQL without altering these things.

    What Sun has gained that is of most value by this purchase as I see it, is not obtaining a technology that it can then effectively be taken exclusively private and charged for using, but in obtaining a codebase that it has control over - which therefore provides it some stability for any solutions business in terms of ensuring any changes to your database platform are synchronised to the priorities of its solutions business.

    Maintaining the existing and expanding the future user base of MySQL is potentially at odds with Sun as a solutions provider. If there are plenty of skills in the open market, there is less scope for Sun (or partners) to supply this resource at premium rates. Depends whether they're aiming to sell software, sell skills, or both.

    • Why mention squeeze? IT market history.

      Although not all that friendly, some suppliers have been known to buy technology and then raise the prices for software licenses and technical support.

      I was pointing out that there are alternatives if Sun chose to take the low road here.

      Dan K
  • squeezing customers

    We offer trainings for the Firebird Database and had one company among the visitors last year, that were using MySQL Database Server in their products for some years already. In 2006 they should pay 80 Euro per server installation. This was ok for them and they distributed their software together with a commercial MySQL License. Even that they reported in late 2006 that they expect more installations in 2007, the new price for 2007 was 200 Euro per server license.

    Since their product was distributed in large amounts for not so high prices, they decided that this price was no longer acceptable for them and they changed their code and their database structure to use Firebird instead. This is why we saw them in our training courses and now have them from time to time in our Firebird hotline. They are very satisfied and use now some technologies in Firebird, which make their application much faster.

    I also know that some companies just don?t know or just ignore the basic rules for distributing MySQL binaries to their customers without commercial licenses. A company like Sun will have the man power to google for some commercial software solutions based on MySQL and call them regarding this issue.

    We are a company that is focused on Products and Services for the Firebird Database. A lot of our customers do typically use the Firebird Database together with our tool IBExpert in commercial environments. As far as i remember there is not a single company using for generating revenues based on a GPL license.

    In Germany for example a large medical database with more than onehundred thousand installations (almost all german doctors and medical institutions use it offline) is deployed together with the Firebird database. There is no source code available, no GPL or Open Source license used for their product and the binaries are distributed on cd rom or dvd anywhere (all three points are not possible with mysql without a commercial license for each installation).

    They don?t care about any licensing since Firebird has a really easy usable license for commercial software, can be used as a full workgroup server or embedded without installation, available on windows, linux, mac, etc. Really free Software.

    Generally, i see no problems for typical private or experienced commercial users who do not need the commercial license for their own installation, but this is not the market where MySQL will generate revenues in the future.

    So from all database users worldwide, there are only a few that are possible paying customers for SUN/MySQL now and perhaps a lot of them do already think about changing to Firebird (or Postgresql), since their business and product pricing is not compatible with the MySQL Model.

    So what is the way for SUN to get back their investment of about a billion Dollar? Squeezing the existing customers might be a solution.

    Holger Klemt