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MySQL And Sun: Match Made In Heaven?

Open source database VP Marten Mickos enjoys "honeymoon" as release date slips.

MySQL got its start as a rapid server of Web pages for emerging Internet businesses such as, Google, and Slashdot. While it now serves as a general-purpose database, it will still star in the role of supporting customer-facing Web applications, said Marten Mickos, senior VP of the database group at Sun Microsystems. Mickos has reason for optimism: MySQL is competing effectively not only with rival open source databases but also with IBM's DB2, Oracle, and other commercial systems.

These vendors left Web developers to rely largely on open source products, and now Mickos and Sun plan to benefit from that blunder.

Mickos is still enjoying his honeymoon with Sun

Photo by James Duncan Davidson

"MySQL goes hand in hand with an enterprise that is shifting its business over to the Web," he said at the MySQL Conference & Expo in Santa Clara, Calif., last week, adding that ownership by Sun will help MySQL get inside more large enterprises.

Mickos, former CEO of MySQL AB, acquired by Sun in January, acknowledged that MySQL commands a relatively small share of the $15 billion-a-year database market. MySQL AB's sales haven't been publicly reported, though Zack Urlocker, VP of products, acknowledged a "sub-$100 million" level in an interview. But MySQL is a favorite with Web developers and has been downloaded an average 50,000 times a day for the past year, a figure Urlocker said has increased since news broke of MySQL's acquisition by Sun.

Mickos said Sun's expertise in large systems has something to do with that bump. "The real value we need to provide is more scalability and performance. Sun has a lot of expertise in scalability," he said in an interview after his keynote. Mickos said that in return, some of MySQL AB's expertise will rub off on Sun. He allowed that both have experience building active communities but added that MySQL is good "at selling small things, and a lot of them. We know how to find small customers and sell them something without incurring much sales cost."


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The next version of MySQL--release 5.1, now due in June--is two months late, giving developers time to clean up more bugs, Mickos said during his keynote. It sounded less like a lesson learned from Sun than the result of hard experience. "Version 5.0, when it came out two years ago, didn't meet our quality standards," he said. Community members and MySQL developers identified and cleaned up 997 bugs in the system in 2007 and have straightened out an additional 380 so far this year. With 5.1, "we are being much more conservative, much harder on ourselves," he said.

Mickos tried to reassure conference attendees that MySQL will stick to its development plans and keep its management and engineering teams intact. "We've really been welcomed into Sun. Maybe I'm still in the honeymoon stage, but I'm loving it," Mickos said.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz also spoke at Tuesday's conference, saying open source software such as MySQL "is driving a huge amount of value in the world." By buying MySQL, Sun gains entrée to thousands of new potential customers who might start out using MySQL for free, and then add other integrated products for which they want support.

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