Sun, MySQL synergies stressed in merger

Sun gets successful open source vendor and part of LAMP stack while MySQL gets major IT vendor backing

With Sun Microsystems' $1 billion acquisition of open source database vendor MySQL announced Wednesday, Sun gets ownership of a major player in the open source software industry while MySQL gets the backing of a multibillion-dollar, established systems company.

Called the largest open source software deal ever, the merger makes Sun the owner of a critical part of the popular LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL Perl/Python/PHP) open source software stack. Sun already has been offering up its own software to open source, even basing its development tools strategy on the open source NetBeans platform.

"MySQL is an important part of the LAMP stack, [and] has grown to be enterprise-ready technology used by large organizations, and Sun is now a major player in the LAMP stack," said Raven Zachary, analyst with The 451 Group. MySQL customers get the benefit of a larger support organization, Zachary said.

Sun, meanwhile, will push MySQL as enterprise-ready technology and as an alternative to proprietary databases like Oracle, he said. "I think Sun has really been struggling in building a software revenue stream around its open source projects, and I think for them to take on MySQL, now they have a very successful revenue stream around an open source software [stack] that was lacking before," said Zachary.

The deal was applauded by open source CRM vendor SugarCRM, PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) tools vendor Zend Technologies, and SpringSource, makers of the open source Spring Framework for Java development.

"I think it's an incredibly smart move by Sun and Jonathan Schwartz," said SugarCRM CEO John Roberts. While Roberts said he had been looking forward to an IPO by MySQL, the deal nonetheless makes sense. Sun, Roberts said, gets a mission-critical database that is "probably the most widely used database on the planet today."

Zend and SpringSource had similar impressions.

"I think open source has gone mainstream," and Sun has put its stamp on it, said Zend CEO Harold Goldberg. "We think it's a great day for open source, and we think it's a great day for the LAMP stack."

"The acquisition of MySQL by Sun marks one of the most significant recognitions of the importance and power of open source as a disruptive force in technology," said SpringSource CEO Rod Johnson in his blog.

Sun heralded the deal as its entrance into the database market and will offer global support offerings for MySQL. "We're announcing we're entering the $15 billion database business," said Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz on a conference call with MySQL and Sun executives.

By Sun's acquisition, MySQL overcomes its biggest impediment: Ensuring peace of mind to a global company that wants to put MySQL into a mission-critical deployment, Schwartz said. "It’s very clear to us that that is what our customers have come to expect from Sun," he said. "We believe there are synergies in putting the two companies together that will allow MySQL to grow more rapidly and allow Sun to grow more rapidly."

New customers for both MySQL and Sun
MySQL has been extending into mission-critical, high performance environments in the last couple of years, said Marten Mickos, who has been MySQL CEO and will become a senior vice president at Sun. "With this acquisition by Sun, we'll be able to offer those customers even better service, a full stack and at the same time heterogeneous solutions running on a number of platforms with a number of environments," Mickos said. "It strengthens our ability to serve our existing customers and very importantly serve the new customers coming over as enterprises move over to Web-based architectures in their enterprise infrastructure."

The acquisition complements Sun technology, said Ian Murdock, chief OS strategist at Sun in a separate interview. "If you think about the two companies together in terms of technology offerings and technology basis, it's very complementary," he said. Sun is in the enterprise and has a substantial Web presence, while MySQL has a substantial Web presence and is entering the enterprise, Murdock said.

The MySQL database runs on several platforms, including Linux and Sun's Solaris. MySQL does not see the database market, though, as saturated. "One of the things that's always been exciting about MySQL is we're really going after a new market of database users," with success in the Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and SaaS (software as a service) spaces, said Zack Urlocker, MySQL executive vice president of products. Sun and MySQL also have joint customers such as eBay, he said.

"I think putting the two companies together, both in terms of what Sun can do to accelerate MySQL adoption and what MySQL can do to accelerate Sun's position in the Web space is going to be very interesting to watch," Murdock said. "This allows us to reach into new markets and have conversations with enormous numbers of developers and startups and other companies that are using MySQL in droves," he said, also pointing out that Sun could sell its workstations and servers to these users.

Although Sun has been involved in the development of the rival open source database, PostgreSQL, Schwartz said Sun was reaffirming its commitment to PostgreSQL. "We are firmly committed to figuring out the ways we can optimize and integrate innovations across the two communities. Between MySQL and PostgreSQL, we probably have a large portion of the market covered," said Schwartz.

Sun's Josh Berkus is the lead on the PostgreSQL project. Berkus said Sun would continue to accommodate multiple databases.

The idea of Sun buying MySQL was born out of a dinner between Schwartz and Mickos a few months ago, Urlocker said. Although MySQL had been on a track to deliver an IPO, the chance to become part of Sun "became just too exciting for us," he said. "This enables us to accelerate our growth onto a much larger kind of platform in the industry."

MySQL will become part of Sun as part of the deal, which is expected to be completed in about two months. MySQL products likely will continue to be offered via the same open source subscription strategy.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.