New beginnings for Sun, MySQL -- and me

As Zack leaves MySQL and InfoWorld, he remains convinced the Oracle acquisition of Sun will be a good thing for both MySQL and open source

Finally, after many months, Oracle's long-awaited acquisition of Sun Microsystems has been completed. Having joined Sun as part of the MySQL acquisition two years ago, I think it's a good outcome both for Sun and for MySQL. The vision behind Sun's acquisition of MySQL was right on: Sun wanted to become the leader in open source and use MySQL as a starting point to consolidate other open source products.

Back in 2008, after several years of layoffs and declining revenues, it looked like Sun had turned the corner and would get back on a path to sustained profitability. Unfortunately, while Sun's Sparc and Solaris technologies were ahead of the competition in the 1990s, they weren't price-competitive against "good enough" Linux running on commodity Intel boxes. It was a classic case of market disruption.

[ Relive the rise and fall of Sun Microsystems in InfoWorld's slideshow. | Get the scoop on Oracle's final takeover plans for Sun from InfoWorld's Paul Krill. ]

While Sun had plenty of vision, its timing and execution were subpar. Revenues came crashing down as the recession hit the financial sector. Wall Street lost confidence in the management team's ability to turn things around, and the stock fell below $3 a share in late 2008. The market capitalization of the company was under $2.7 billion, less than a quarter of its annual revenues of $13 billion. Ultimately, the board of directors lost faith and sold Sun out from under the management team.Oracle snapped up Sun in April 2009 for $7.4 billion, paying a 42 percent premium over the then-current $6.69 share price. While some questioned Oracle's strategy of getting into the hardware business, from a financial perspective, the deal was a no-brainer.

The only bet Oracle had to make was that it could run the business profitably. Given Sun's bloated infrastructure and broad range of unprofitable products, I don't think it's that hard a task. Both Oracle and IBM have become adept at running legacy businesses for profit rather than growth.

I believe that Oracle's acquisition of Sun will result in increased investment in open source in general and MySQL in particular. I also believe the business will be in good hands under Edward Screven and Ken Jacobs, who was our longtime contact at Oracle managing the InnoDB storage engine. I expect MySQL's growth will accelerate inside of Oracle and will become an even greater competitor to Windows.

Personally, I've enjoyed my time with MySQL and Sun. It was a heckuva ride. I've never had as much fun as we did growing MySQL from a few million in revenue to more than $100 million, with a community that measures in tens of millions of users around the world. The one side effect of working for a high-growth startup is that it can be quite addictive.

So with the Oracle deal closing, it's time for me to move on to another new adventure. I'm going to take a few months off, work with a couple of startup companies and VCs, and figure out what the next right step is.

I'll also be giving up my participation in the Open Sources blog here at InfoWorld. You will still be able to find me on Twitter, and I'll occasionally post about technology and music on my other blogs. But now it's time to start something new.

This article, "New beginnings for Sun, MySQL -- and me," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest development on open source at InfoWorld.com.

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