Sleepycat VP says Oracle buy is not about MySQL

Oracle looking to become a bigger player in the embedded database market

Oracle Corp.'s acquisition of Sleepycat Software Inc. shouldn't be seen as a way to hobble open-source database player MySQL AB, according to a Sleepycat executive. Rex Wang, Sleepycat vice president of marketing, said the purchase is more about Oracle's bid to win more business in the burgeoning embedded database market

Last October, Oracle made waves in the open-source community when it bought Innobase OY, the Finnish company that makes the InnoDB database engine used to provide add-on transactional storage for MySQL's open-source database. The move was widely seen as a preemptive strike against MySQL, which competes with Oracle.

Speaking just after he bumped into Marten Mickos, chief executive officer of MySQL, at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) Tuesday in San Francisco, Wang described relations between Sleepycat and MySQL as "amicable."

In a phone interview with IDG News Service, Wang talked about the company's relationship with MySQL and the reasons why Sleepycat chose to go with Oracle. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.

IDGNS: Why did Sleepycat opt to be acquired by Oracle?

Wang: Sleepycat is a private company. We've had no outside funding of any kind, we're self-funded based on revenue. We've been profitable for the last nine to 10 years. Over the last three years we went from one to three products and our engineering costs increased. We started to look for a partner who could not only provide capital, but also tremendous experience and tremendous reach. We've been talking [to Oracle] for at least the last couple of months.

IDGNS: What about reports that the acquisition price was around or under US$10 million?

Wang: I can't comment on that.

IDGNS: In a blog on Sleepycat's Web site, Mike Olson, your chief executive officer, seemed to suggest there might be more versions of the company's Berkeley DB software?

Wang: It's been our belief that a number of appliances could use a fast embedded database. The number of mobile devices and higher-end appliances is proliferating. Web services and software-as-a-service hosted requirements are interesting use cases for really fast mobile storage. Our feeling is the market for this type of data storage is growing.

IDGNS: There are already suggestions that Oracle acquired Sleepycat as a way to eventually kill MySQL given that Oracle already owns Innobase. How do you respond?

Wang: We're starting to hear some of that. The acquisition wasn't related to that -- Oracle sees the embedded database market as a growing opportunity, Sleepycat is complementary to Oracle's existing products. Our dual licensing model is of interest to them as well and our installed base. [Sleepycat's dual licensing model is a no-cost open-source license allowing redistribution if the application using the database is open source, and a commercial license for the redistribution of proprietary applications.]

The observation that MySQL can use Berkeley DB as one of two transactional storage engines is fact. We've been working together for quite some time but we have no formal business relationship. They [MySQL] don't depend on us, we don't depend on them. Our CEOs are close personal friends.

IDGNS: You just bumped into MySQL's Mickos at OSBC, what did you say to each other?

Wang: We mutually congratulated each other, he on our acquisition and us on their third-round venture financing. We remain on amicable terms.

IDGNS: How does Berkeley DB differ from what Oracle already has in the embedded database space?

Wang: There are three products now. Oracle TimesTen is a fast in-memory database that supports SQL [structured query language]. Oracle Lite is a mobile database with a small footprint, which has synchronize capabilities with Oracle 10g [relational database]. Berkeley DB is complementary, it has no SQL query layer and you can store data in memory or in disk meaning an unlimited memory capability. All three databases are embedded, run tightly coupled to an application itself and don't require human administration.

IDGNS: Will all the Sleepycat staff join Oracle?

Wang: Yes. I expect all Sleepycat employees to transition over to Oracle. There are about 25 people. We will continue all our products and keep our business model of dual licensing.

IDGNS: Will the Sleepycat name and the Berkeley DB brand survive?

Wang: Some details about the acquisition are not ready yet. My expectation is that Berkeley DB will continue in some way. In the short term customers can continue to buy product from us and the Sleepycat Web site will continue. Nothing has changed upon this transaction.

IDGNS: Do Oracle's moves in recent acquisitions and in the open-source world give you confidence in their commitment to Sleepycat?

Wang: I've seen Oracle embrace open source. They're showing increasing commitment to the open-source world, part of this is our acquisition and that of Innobase and Oracle's commitment to Linux and several other open-source projects.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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