Users nervous about Oracle's acquisition of MySQL

Concerns also linger over the fate of other Sun technologies such as Solaris and Java

The European Union is not the only one antsy about Oracle taking possession of the open source MySQL database should the commercial database giant's merger with Sun Microsystems get final approval. So are MySQL users. (The E.U.'s executive arm has held up approval of the merger, fearing that Oracle's acquisition of MySQL could reduce competition in the database market, as well as harm the open source nature of MySQL. Sun's stockholders and the U.S. Justice Department have approved Oracle's $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun.)

"We've got a fair number of databases and Web applications that use those databases in MySQL. If Oracle does something that sort of makes it look like MySQL's days are numbered or something is going to change that we don't like, we'll probably look at alternatives," says Ernest Joynt, a contractor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

[ Relive Sun's storied history in InfoWorld's slideshow "The rise and fall of Sun Microsystems." | Learn why attendees at the JavaOne conference were skeptical of Oracle's buyout of Sun. ]

Anand Babu Periasamy, CTO of clustered storage technology company Gluster, expresses doubts that Oracle would add enterprise capabilities to MySQL. "I hope that they will retain MySQL. [But] I am doubtful [that] they will ever improve MySQL to take it mid-enterprise level, but at least it will help them compete with Microsoft SQL Server on the low end," he says. (Gluster uses MySQL for its Web site operations.)

Thus far, Oracle has said little about its intentions for MySQL and declined to discuss the issue with InfoWorld. On its Web site, Oracle merely notes that "MySQL will be an addition to Oracle's existing suite of database products."

"I wish that Oracle would broadcast its intentions a little bit more" on the Sun acquisition, says Duane Kimble, a Linux technologist who works in the banking industry. For him, Oracle's ownership of MySQL is a specific cause for caution.

MySQL users start looking at alternatives
A key issue is that Oracle is a main competitor to MySQL, notes Timothy Dion, CTO of mobile and Web apps builder Sensei. "I'm very concerned about what that means," he says. His firm has begun looking at other enterprise-scale open source databases such as EnterpriseDB's Postgres database in case it has to replace MySQL.

Standing to reap a harvest from unease about the Oracle-MySQL pairing are open source database vendors EnterpriseDB and Ingres. EnterpriseDB, which builds its products on the PostgreSQL open source database, has been hearing from concerned MySQL users, says Larry Alston, EnterpriseDB's vice president of product management and marketing. "They're telling us that they're nervous" about the future of MySQL, he says.

Ingres also sees opportunities. "The phones ring a lot," says Ingres CEO Roger Burkhardt.

Doubts remain over the fate of other Sun technologies
Users remain concerned over the fate of other Sun technologies such as Java and Solaris, not just of MySQL. "We are rethinking our Solaris deployments," says Linux technologist Kimble. "We are moving swiftly toward more of an AIX and Linux environment, depending on the size or the scale of the project." Although Kimble notes it is "too early to say whether we'll move off [Solaris] or not," he does say his employer is rethinking its Solaris commitment: "Certainly, we're not going full-bore with Solaris as we were before the merger."

Kimble does see a positive side to the Sun acquisition: "I think it kind of simplifies the platform offering somewhat. Oracle is a strong company and if they keep Sun Java, which I'm sure is what they bought [Sun] for, I think it will make Java a better product."

But Bryce Pier is not so sure. The senior systems engineer at Target sees no benefits of the buyout -- at least not yet. "I'm not really certain that it's going to be good for anybody. Another large company buying another large company reduces competition," he says.

Pier expects the acquisition to cause Target to move away from Solaris to Red Hat's Linux over time. One reason is the uncertainty: "We're just not sure what Oracle's commitment is going to be to the Java stack and to maintaining it as an open source project." Another is Oracle's reputation for extracting revenues from customers: "We certainly fear that all of the subscription fees are going to change for everything from Sun."

At its recent conference, Red Hat sought to reassure customers about the continued openness of Java-based JBoss technology, which Red Hat owns, now that Oracle is buying Java founder Sun. Oracle, said Craig Muzilla, Red Hat's vice president for middleware, was very active in the Java Community Process for updating Java and has strived for openness in Java. "We don't see anything from Oracle that [would indicate that] they would do anything" that would differ with the past, he said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.