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3/26/2008
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Sun Swallows MySQL, But Management Remains Intact

MySQL executives are urging their staffs to continue doing what they were doing before the acquisition and not to try and adopt Sun's practices.

MySQL's management team is being urged to maintain its own initiative in database development and sales and marketing, said Zack Urlocker, executive VP of products at the firm, which is now part of Sun Microsystems as a result of its Feb. 26 acquisition.

Urlocker, Executive VP for Worldwide Sales Mark Burton, and CEO Marten Mickos all remain in place and are urging their staffs to continue doing what they were doing before the acquisition and not try to adopt Sun's practices, Urlocker stated during a panel at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Moderator Larry Augustin, an open source venture capitalist, challenged Urlocker on the point. "Sun has a different process of selling software than MySQL does."

"We're going to continue going down the path we're going down," answered Urlocker.

"What about replacing SAMP [replacing Linux in the LAMP stack with Solaris]?" asked Augustin.

"Linux is our number one platform, Windows is number two, and Solaris is number three. We are totally committed to supporting those platforms," in that order, Urlocker maintained.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz "gets that. He says, why would Sun want to alienate 90% of the MySQL customer base?" Urlocker added.

Urlocker drew support from Zend Technologies CEO Harold Goldberg, an independent firm that produces the popular open source scripting language, PHP, often cited with Python and Perl as the last letter in the LAMP acronym. Goldberg said MySQL and Zend worked closely together before the acquisition and were continuing to do so afterward, even though Sun might like to see more Web developers use Java.

But Ben Sabrin, VP of of sales and business at the startup Appcelerator and former director of JBoss sales, says acquisitions can prove to yield rocky results. He said he assumed Red Hat had set up an independent business unit in JBoss and would allow its management to continue to do things the way there were accustomed to. Instead, he says top marketing and sales people were told soon after the purchase, "Here's how we do things. Here's how you will do things. If you don't like it, the door's over there."

While the JBoss technical teams have stayed at Red Hat, most of its business and sales people have departed for other companies.

Sabrin said the turnabout at Red Hat came without warning at a time when he thought the acquisition was still progressing smoothly.

Companies that purchase open source companies that include the charismatic leaders of projects, skilled developers, and a large active community of users need to heed the needs of that community or lose part of the value of their purchase, Urlocker, Sabrin, and the other members of the panel agreed. Rex Wang, VP of product marketing at Oracle and a former marketing executive at Sleepycat, acquired by Oracle in February 2006, was also a member of the panel.

But Sabrin predicted that JBoss users will stick with Red Hat and act as a stabilizing force in JBoss' continued development, offering feedback and a test bed of opinion for proposed changes. The continued presence of the JBoss technical team keeps a dialogue going with the community and the community's presence gives users a platform with which to call attention to their needs.

Urlocker said MySQL's following has increased since the acquisition rather than being turned off by MySQL absorption by Sun. "We were experiencing 50,000 downloads a day. It's increased 25% to 65,000 or 70,000," he claimed.

But Goldberg declined to agree that MySQL's acquisition by Sun was an unmitigated blessing. He admitted his first response on hearing the news was anger at MySQL management for agreeing to the deal. His second reaction was to call the management team and congratulate them. He was still offering congratulations for the $1 billion buyout at the conference, but he wouldn't say it was good for MySQL in the long run. "It's too early to tell," he said.

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