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What Will Oracle Do With MySQL?

While there is no shortage of questions surrounding what Oracle has in store for Sun Microsystems, perhaps the most intriguing one is what Oracle will do with MySQL. Will it live or will Oracle, which gains MySQL as a result of its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun, throw it under the bus?

There is plenty of reason to believe Oracle would not want to in any way, shape or form let MySQL cannibalize the licensing revenues Oracle has enjoyed for so many years from its flagship proprietary database platform. There's the school of thought that Oracle doesn't walk the walk when it comes to open source.

"While Oracle has displayed an ability to participate in and benefit from open source software, I think its expectations and aspirations for open source software are limited," wrote 451Group analyst Jay Lyman.

But lest we forget, while Oracle CEO Larry Ellison talks up how acquiring Sun is a key entre for Oracle to further its assault on IBM, his real nemesis is Microsoft. While it is unlikely MySQL was a huge factor (perhaps not even a reason at all) in Oracle's decision to make its surprise bid, the company's decision to put some emphasis on the open source database could be an opportunity to go after Microsoft in a way it could never do with its flagship database.

In fact, that's exactly what MySQL founder Marten Mickos told Forbes yesterday, arguing they serve two different application types. "Microsoft's database business is the fastest growing," Mickos told Forbes. "Oracle can use MySQL to achieve a stronger developer community."

Forrester analyst Noel Yuhanna agrees. "If Oracle plays its cards right, this could be a  great move, since it continues to struggle against Microsoft SQL Server especially in the small- to moderate-sized database market, where Microsoft SQL Server enjoys dominance," Yuhanna said in an e-mail. "A combination of MySQL and Oracle DBMS can cover all bases, and put MySQL against Microsoft SQL Server more competitively. Also, we see that as databases become more automated (which is already happening), the need for tighter integration with hardware and bundling will further grow -- therefore having a database appliance (database machine) will become critical."

While the installed base of MySQL pales in comparison to SQL Server, Microsoft is well aware of the momentum around it and the open source database movement, especially for lower-end Web applications. That's why Microsoft has developed its own PHP Driver for SQL Server and last month released its PHP on Windows Training Kit, which includes technical material, best practices and code samples for building PHP applications that run on Windows, IIS 7 and SQL Server 2008.

"Microsoft is going after those folks in a pretty serious way," said Andrew Brust, a director of new technology at twenty six New York, and a Microsoft regional director. "Read what you want into that but it shows how seriously Microsoft takes MySQL."

While most MySQL applications are PHP-based, it also supports .NET applications, Brust noted. "MySQLhas done a pretty good job at working nicely with Windows and ADO.NET," he said. "But I think by and large it is PHP developers."

According to Sun's internal surveys, SQL Server is the number one platform that customers migrate from when moving to MySQL, said Robin Schumacher, MySQL's director of product management. "People using MySQL on Windows makes a very nice alternative to SQL Server," Schumacher said. For enterprise implementations, Linux is still the largest platform for MySQL "but Windows is right behind it," he added.

"They have to see the value of MySQL in the ability for it to continue to gain on the SQL Server marketplace," added Ian Abramson, president of Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) and a director at Toronto-based Thoughtcorp, a data warehousing and BI consultancy, who said the Oracle user community welcomes MySQL joining the fold.

Meanwhile Sun this week coincidently announced the preview of the next release -- My SQL 5.4, which it says will be far more scalable than the current version.

What impact do you think Oracle's acquisition of Sun will have on MySQL, open source databases and SQL Server? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/22/2009

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