In addition, Sun Microsystems is the driving force behind OpenOffice.org, which has emerged as the leading contender to Microsoft Office in the productivity software market. Microsoft can't be thrilled at the prospect of this promising suite falling into the hands of its bitterest rival.
Let's not forget the developer tools market, either. Oracle already owns BEA; with Sun it gains Java itself. Bringing both under one roof could bolster the Java ecosystem considerably, slowing the momentum of Microsoft's competing .Net platform.
There are even voices of dissent among the core MySQL community. MySQL co-founder Monty Widenius urged Oracle to sell MySQL to "a suitable third party." But unlike Mickos, Widenius does have a financial stake in the matter; in February he launched Monty Program, a company that develops and markets a fork of MySQL called MariaDB.
The case for Oracle
So is there no reason for concern? Should we just stop worrying and trust Larry? Hardly. Oracle is a fierce competitor, and its products aren't cheap. Customers need competition in the database market -- and Oracle's other markets -- if they want good value.
But a merger with Sun won't eliminate that competition. In the database market alone, Oracle is up against the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Sybase, Teradata, and Greenplum, among others -- not to mention MySQL's own open source competition, including PostgreSQL, Firebird, and Ingres.
The actual overlap between MySQL's customer base and Oracle's is far smaller than the naysayers would have you believe. But while MySQL is ill suited to the kinds of mission-critical applications that form Oracle's most profitable customer base, it makes a fine complement to Oracle's technology on the low end.
MySQL has emerged as a leading platform for departmental databases and Web applications. In addition, many commercial MySQL licensees bundle the product in embedded systems or other turnkey solutions. A traditional Oracle license would be prohibitively expensive for many such applications; with MySQL, Oracle can offer an alternative.
More important, Oracle has deeper pockets, a broader customer base, and more market savvy than Sun ever had. It's the largest database vendor in the world. If anyone can build the customer base for MySQL, Oracle can. Larry Ellison has already announced plans to spend more money developing MySQL [PDF] than Sun does now. I see no reason why we shouldn't take him at his word.
If, on the other hand, you mistrust Oracle so much that you honestly believe it would kill the proverbial golden goose just out of spite, so be it. But when you root against Oracle, make sure you know just what -- and who -- you're rooting for. Open source isn't the whole story.