MySQL Users Wary On Oracle Acquisition

Nobody believes Oracle bought Sun with a subsidiary notion of killing off MySQL. But black humor abounds among those heavily committed to the open source database system.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

April 21, 2009

3 Min Read

Ask an attendee at the MySQL Conference & Expo what they think of Sun Microsystems and MySQL being acquired by Oracle and chances are the user will put a good face on it, but look sort of grim.

Most shrug and say they'll wait and see; they don't know what to think.

And some are more outspoken. Mathieu Durano, network operator of Montreal computer game host Ubisoft, started to respond to that question at the end of a session at the annual MySQL user group conference. Before he could answer, the fellow sitting in the row ahead of him turned around and interjected: "My friends assured me as I got off the plane that MySQL was dead."

Nobody, not even the most die-hard open source advocates believe Oracle bought Sun with a subsidiary notion of killing off MySQL. Oracle has previously acquired open source code database companies Sleepycat and InnoDB Oy and maintained their products as open source. But black humor abounded among those heavily committed to the database system.

"It's kind of scary," conceded Durano. "MySQL is light and fast. It's a very distinctive product from Oracle." Oracle may find a way to charge more money for a MySQL license or charge more for support, he said.

The whole sequence of IBM negotiating to acquire Sun was just a ruse, said Frantzcy Paisible, CTO of Softvoyage, an Internet aggregator of travel packages in Montreal. "There was rumor after rumor about how IBM was going to acquire Sun. Then three weeks after the talks break off, Oracle gets them. These things usually take more time," he said.

He figures Sun and Oracle had been talking for months in the background before the IBM negotiations began. He also figures users will stick with their existing systems and hope for a continued life after Sun's absorption by Oracle.

"We have an open source mentality. We're used to getting it for free and spending sleepless nights trying to figure out what you need to do to make it work." But now that his company is running its Web site applications on top of MySQL, "you just don't want to move," Paisible said.

Part of that feeling concerns all the scripts and other custom adjustments he's made to MySQL to put it into production. He knows they work with the existing version. Even if MySQL was forked by open source developers who wanted a non-Oracle version to be available, it would still be a lot of work to switch over to a different version, Paisible said.

In many ways, the mood at this year's event was a contrast to that encountered last year, which occurred soon after Sun closed its $1 billion deal to acquire MySQL AB. At that time, many attendees were optimistic that Sun's acquisition of MySQL would be an immediate boost to their favored database system.

"Better to be acquired by [Sun CEO's] Mr. Schwartz than by Mr. Ellison," Bruce Lowe, owner of Center Stage Software, said at the time. This year, with their system acquired again, this time by Ellison, MySQL users were either cautiously optimistic or at a loss for words.

"I'm disappointed. I'm not sure where Oracle will go with this," said Aleem Rajpar, an independent database architect and consultant in Calgary. He usually works with IBM DB2 customers, but over the last year he's invested in learning MySQL because there are so many users in Calgary.

"Maybe they'll let MySQL be a stepping stone to Oracle," he added, although he looked dubious that such a prospect would work out. "I don't know how this plays out."

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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