Daily Archives: April 20, 2009
Anyone who works in or with software knows the danger of a product/project being orphaned: left unsupported, and its users in limbo, facing forced migration to something else. It is a strong argument in favour of open source: if you have the source, then if the worst happens and your supplier/support organisation disappears, or is bought up by someone hostile to it, you can hire someone else to maintain it.
My Apache colleague Gianugo Rabellino (one of the most interesting thinkers and inspiring speakers anywhere in the FOSS world) has argued for years that open source alone is necessary but not really sufficient, and for a product, you need open development. This evening he’s one of the many bloggers to comment on the Oracle acquisition of Sun, and argues there is now a danger of MySQL being orphaned and its users left in limbo despite MySQL being open source (GPL)! His thesis (here) is that if Oracle wants to stifle MySQL, they can make it very unrewarding for anyone else to pick up development.
I don’t think his point completely stands. If enough of the original/current MySQL team were to leave Oracle en masse, they could pick up development, and make a support business of it on the basis of their reputation, in spite of not owning the IP. But that’s not a nice scenario, compared to MySQL as an independent or within Sun. Or of course within a supportive Oracle.
On the subject of MySQL itself, I’m more optimistic (albeit through the perspective of benefit of the doubt – I want this to be good). While acknowledging the danger, I’m sure Oracle can see the business case for maintaining a healthy MySQL product and community. LAMP and other FOSS users are not short of credible alternatives: obvious candidates include PostgreSQL for serious applications or SQLite for lightweight php-ish stuff, and if MySQL loses its bloom, they’ll migrate. Surely better for Oracle to keep them on-side, make tiny margins on LAMP business and support, but gain a serious market from those who grow big and might be sold a smooth upgrade to a top-end platform where Solaris and Oracle replace Linux and MySQL.
 What’s MySQL’s current market share? Is it more than all other SQL databases combined?
A couple of weeks ago, the rumour was IBM to buy Sun. Now it’s not IBM but Oracle, and not a rumour but a press release and conference call.
In pure business terms, it feels like a potentially better fit. IBM and Sun are direct competitors in so many lines of business, and I’d expect competition authorities to be concerned about such areas as top-end servers and storage, where they are two players in a very small field. Oracle and Sun have long been technology partners where the businesses complement each other, but have relatively little overlap. Worryingly, one area where there is substantial overlap is Glassfish/Webstack vs WebLogic (née BEA).
Another question must be over corporate culture: Sun the laid-back techie hive of innovation, vs pinstriped, business-focussed Oracle. I hope Oracle will preserve and build on Sun’s committment to open source in the projects it will inherit, but it doesn’t have IBM’s (let alone Sun’s) track-record of playing nicely with FOSS. Oracle’s conference call was very clear about its committment to core software assets – particularly Solaris and Java – which is encouraging, though to be expected.
At this point I started writing about some of those areas I know and care about more directly than the above generalities. But I guess I shouldn’t be jumping the gun there, so I’ll shut up.
The bottom line of the conference call makes a lot of sense: Oracle is now positioned to be a one-shop provider of all computing and consulting needs to the enterprise. There’s only one competitor who can make a comparable claim – and that’s IBM.