Pretend you're Oracle CEO Larry Ellison for a minute (forget about the yacht and designer suits, though). You're spending $7.4 billion to buy Sun Microsystems, and all of a sudden the EU antitrust posse frets about the fate of MySQL, the popular, open source database. Would you risk the acquisition because you want to remain the proud owner of a product that may or may not have revenue potential, or would you throw it overboard?
If you're a Wall Street investment analyst, the answer is pretty clear: Give it the heave-ho.
"MySQL is a baggage, not an asset," says Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research. Given the EU investigation and MySQL's paltry revenue growth, Oracle's only smart option is to spin it off, he says. But spin off to where?
There's another way point of view out there, however, and it's been championed by Matthew Aslett, who follows open source for the 451 Group: "Oracle is well aware that it has little to gain from killing off MySQL. We expect MySQL to become the scale-out database for nontransactional Web applications and to compete with SQL Server in departmental deployments," he wrote this week.
Perhaps he's right. But it's far from clear that Oracle would do much with MySQL beyond channeling users toward its own larger and more expensive products.
Throw MySQL under the bus?
Oracle has said nothing about its intentions for MySQL other than a line on its Web site: "MySQL will be an addition to Oracle's existing suite of database products." Frankly, given the value of the Sun deal and the potential veto by the European Commission (the executive authority of the EU), Oracle is probably smart to keep its corporate mouth shut.
Even so, there's data that shows why Oracle may not fight very hard to keep the company.
"MySQL is almost impossible to be monetized. More than 98 percent of the customer base is DIY, and they don't see any value in paying for support. Contacts tell us that MySQL continues to struggle with monetization issues, with revenues probably not exceeding $50 million, and has been like that for the last three years. 'No revenue growth whatsoever,' said our [Sun] contact," Chowdhry wrote in a note to clients.