Sun's open source strategy has just ratcheted up a notch: they've purchased MySQL AB, the makers of one of the most widely-used open source database solutions. So, is this a good thing or a bad thing? My take: It ought to be a good thing.
Thing is, given the strides Sun has made with open source over the years, I have trouble not seeing it as a good thing. It'll give MySQL a solid base of support -- both technological and financial -- to develop their product, and it'll give Sun a major partner of clout for the further growth of Solaris as an open-source platform. And if this doesn't turn out to be a good thing, it'll serve as a test case for how Sun deals with acquiring and handling a third-party open source vendor. (It's probably just coincidence, but this all comes hot on the heels of another major database acquisition -- Oracle buying BEA -- albeit one of a completely different cast and tenor.)
What Sun has to offer is not just money, but a playing field. MySQL deserves to compete as best it can with products like Oracle and SQL Server and DB2 -- the sort of scale that Sun is accustomed to thinking on in the first place -- and not merely other open-source database solutions like PostgreSQL. This isn't to imply that MySQL can't be used in high-end solutions right now, though -- just that Sun is probably best equipped to make a good thing better in that regard.
Sun's Jonathan Schwartz also posted a blog entry about the sale -- although I admit, I have this aversion to corporate blogs since they all too often read like a glad-handling press release. The main thing he announces is how Sun will be providing professional enterprise support for MySQL -- something that's possibly even more important in the short run for MySQL than supporting MySQL development itself. Support -- and not the "look it up in the wiki" brush-off that passes for support for many open source projects -- is key to getting open source used in corporate environments; there has to be someone to yell at when it breaks. (How that support will manifest is another, as yet untold story.)
The most important thing Sun needs to do, though -- and this is something the MySQL folks have stated in their own release about the acquisition -- is leave well enough alone. "This deal is about addition, not subtraction," says the above-linked post, and I hope they stick with that sentiment by leaving the existing development team in place and just letting them do what they do best: code and innovate.