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Sun Locks Up MySQL, Looks To Future Web Development

"This is the most important acquisition in Sun's history," said CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

Sun Microsystems has completed its acquisition of MySQL six weeks after announcing its intent to do so. As of today, Marten Mickos, MySQL's former CEO, is now senior VP of a new software database group, reporting to Rich Green, executive VP for software. Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz said Mickos also will report directly to him as part of Sun's senior management team.

The $1 billion cost of acquiring MySQL was worth the price, said Schwartz. MySQL "was the crown jewel of the open source marketplace," with 11 million customers and "the strategic value of opening new markets to Sun," he said in a teleconference announcing the closure of the deal on Tuesday.

MySQL is the speedy, open source, Web-page-serving database that's used by Facebook, Google, Slashdot, and other giants of the Web. With Sun's help, MySQL can now overcome what Schwartz termed "the chief liability of open source companies," supplying 24/7 global technical support.

The acquisition "marks the end of a remarkable era for MySQL and the beginning of another remarkable one," Mickos said at the teleconference. "As part of Sun, we will grow to serve more customers with bigger deployments and bigger scalability."

The announcement was filled with superlatives. "This is the most important acquisition in Sun's history," said Schwartz, even though Sun's $4.1 billion acquisition of Storage Technologies in June 2005 was much larger. Reminded of StorageTek, Schwartz said, "We don't have any second thoughts about history. MySQL as a database is as much about storage as StorageTek. We're gathering together the most compelling open source storage platform in the industry."

Sun is counting on MySQL's continued growth in the $15 billion-a-year database industry to fuel additional software sales out of the Sun portfolio, although analysts put MySQL's share of that at somewhere less than $100 million a year in revenue. Both Mickos and Schwartz took pains to say that Linux, not Sun's Solaris, will remain MySQL's primary operating system. In fact, MySQL runs on Linux as its most popular platform, with Windows second, and Solaris coming in a distant third. Nevertheless, MySQL was developed on Solaris, said Simon Phipps, chief open source officer at Sun.

At a media summit Feb. 13, Schwartz raised some eyebrows when he said the popular LAMP stack, which includes Linux and MySQL, doesn't have to be taken literally. Sun will encourage developers to use Solaris, instead of Linux, with the stack.

Regardless of operating system choice, Schwartz asserted that with MySQL, Sun has a set of software that more directly competes with Microsoft's Windows Server and SQL Server database. "I couldn't agree more strongly," he told a questioner, when asked if the acquisition brings Sun closer to head-to-head competition. But Sun will compete on building out the next generation of Web applications for the Internet, not dominance of the desktop.

Sun's Green said it wasn't the right time to talk about future possibilities stemming from the acquisition, but it wasn't unreasonable to expect Sun to more closely integrate MySQL with Sun middleware, such as its GlassFish application server project.

As developers build out Web applications that interact with individual site visitors, answer questions with fresh product information and data, and conduct transactions, Sun wants to be the supplier to the enterprise for the network's next phase. Sun plans to buy additional open source companies, but it clearly views MySQL as the cornerstone of its campaign. It gives Sun an open door to the builders of the next generation of applications.

That acquisition wasn't only big for Sun, said Schwartz. "It was the most important acquisition in the industry," he said during the teleconference.

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