Tag Archives: EU

The Future of MySQL (EU Crunch Time)

You’ve probably seen Monty’s post Help Saving MySQL. This is about

  1. Development (will Oracle put significant effort into MySQL, actually innovating)
  2. Brand (“MySQL” has a huge footprint), the trademark owner can enforce this – there have already been issues with companies offering MySQL related services via Google AdWords not being able to use the word MySQL in their ad text even though it was correctly used as an adjective.
  3. Forking is fine, but still has to deal with the branding. For MySQL, that’s possibly the most significant issue of any OSS product ever encountered. You’re not competing against a company, but against an existing brand footprint that you (because of the trademark) have to steer clear of. So “just fork it” is not an easy or short term option, there’s more involved than technical/development work.
  4. Code IP – to some degree (IMHO less important), it’s the thing that enables dual licensing. I regard dual licensing as a pest that’s best got rid of.

The really important thing to realise is that this is not about “killing Sun to save MySQL”, or “sending the right message to investors”. The former is merely a consequence of Oracle’s unwillingness to discuss any other option (whether rightfully or not, that’s just a fact) and the latter has no direct bearing on what’s right for either MySQL or Oracle – it’s definitely a factor that the investor world may consider, but it wouldn’t be a consideration for the EU.

With all that noted… please look at Monty’s post, he provides options and links to for you to action whichever way forward you feel is appropriate, whether for or against or neutral towards Oracle being able to take over Sun with MySQL in unmodified fashion. I think it’s good for more users (essentially interested parties) to express their opinion, since Oracle has managed to mobilise its own customers to flood the EU with their angle. While valid, the result ends up being a tad one-sided!

As I wrote on my comment/update on the Possible Movement in the Oracle/Sun/MySQL/EU Case, it’s unfortunate that the rumour suggesting that Oracle was willing to have MySQL as a separate business entity turned out to not be true, as I reckon it would have been a useful outcome for both Oracle and MySQL. A company can’t/won’t disrupt itself, and there are serious business-related “conflicts” to deal with if a single company sells both both products. Corporate structures and sales will always make decisions to steer away from competing with itself, and generally choose the most profitable road. Which one of the two that is in this case is not relevant, my take is that in the market both Oracle and MySQL have their place, so having either one lose out would not be good.

Irrespective of good intentions, companies do abide by certain rules – well actually many companies are ignorant of them and waste tons of money essentially trying to defy gravity. In any case, for me the issue is not with Oracle having good intentions or mistrusting that, the issue is that not even Oracle can defy gravity. The effort will go where the money is.

Remember what I quoted long ago about IBM and the PC? (Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen), IBM planted the new department in another state with its own management and finances, because they knew that in the corporate/management decisions, inevitably the existing mainframe business would win and thus prevent any cannibalisation (from within) of its position. In a nutshell, a company can’t disrupt itself. It’s well documented. I think that overall, the Oracle/Sun deal is a good match. But also, I think MySQL needs to be handled properly to make sure that both MySQL and Oracle (the db product) will thrive in the future. I feel that’s what’s important.

Possible movement in the Oracle/Sun/MySQL/EU case

From NY Post: Oracle Leader Blinks – Larry’s Olive Branch (to the EU), the NYpost sources apparently say that “what […] Ellison is proposing is the creation of a firewall between MySQL and the rest of the combined company, and possibly setting up an entirely separate board for the MySQL business.”

There is no independent confirmation of any of this, so it may be true, or just air, or a trial balloon to see how other parties respond… I’m not going to add opinions to this, I just reckon it’s an interesting progression in the case. We’ll see how it pans out.

Update: so it’s not true (see Reuters).

(so now I’ll add my opinion…) Unfortunate in a way because from my perspective it would have actually been a useful outcome for both Oracle and MySQL. A company can’t/won’t disrupt itself, and there are serious business-related “conflicts” to deal with if a single company sells both. Corporate structures will always make decisions to steer away from competing with itself, and go for the most profitable road. Which one of the two that is in this case is not relevant, the point is that in the market both Oracle and MySQL have their place, so having either one lose out would not be good.

Market share vs market impact

This is very relevant in the context of the EU probe of the Oracle-Sun takeover. MySQL’s share of the database market, which is usually measured by revenue, is of course peanuts and estimated range from half a percent to something slightly more. Peanuts.

This is not surprising, considering an estimated 999 out of every 1000 MySQL users does not pay Sun/MySQL anything (although some might be Open Query clients ;-) and while MySQL has been targeting higher-end clients and corresponding higher revenue, its pricing is still far lower than the premium-cost of Oracle, DB2 and the like.

All this proves very clearly something which I’ve been saying for years (do scan back in my blog ;-), the definition of market share is borked when it comes to Open Source and low-end disruptors (MySQL has been both although it might no longer be a low-end disruptor, having overshot the needs of a significant chunk of its users). The market impact (usage and influence) of such products is much greater than their revenue. So we have to consider, what matters most? I think the usage and influence matters most, but usage is difficult to measure for OSS, and influence is a subjective issue. Analysts go for solid numbers, and therefore revenue is a sensible -and traditionally reasonably accurate- way to see how things are, including in terms of influence and usage.

So, what is interesting about the EU probe is that it appears to acknowledge that little MySQL actually is a big force in the database market, and that is spot on. As to whether it makes sense to stall the takeover while meanwhile Sun is continuing its freefall and vultures IBM, HP and MS are circling around…. that’s a different matter. Having a philosophical debate while the patient is bleeding to death and getting pecked by scavengers… you get the idea. And I believe that Oracle has, all things considered, done a very decent job with InnoDB since its acquisition. With the takeover I’m not entirely convinced either way; it’s definitely interesting stuff playing out, but it shouldn’t be dragged on too much, that doesn’t help anybody.

EU probes Oracle’s bid to buy Sun

It appears that little MySQL has just become a disproportionally big player in the Oracle-Sun takeover deal…. article by Associated Press: EU probes Oracle’s bid to buy Sun notes:

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said Thursday that regulators needed to examine the effect of a deal “when the world’s biggest proprietary database company proposes to take over the world’s leading open-source database company.”

Ah, Neelie Kroes. Dutch lady from the liberal (that’s seriously right-wing in NL, my American friends ;-) party, formerly minister for infrastructure in NL, long time ago.

So what can happen now? The EU can (and I’m skipping a few steps for brevity here) force the MySQL part of Sun to be auctioned separately, to allow the remainder of the detail to go through. One thing is fairly predictable, the price is probably not going to be $1 bln. As far as it wasn’t overpriced back then, a fair amount of talent and activity is not actually inside Sun any more. Less predictable, who might buy what is now there?

And on a side note, where will Drizzle fit… would be regarded as part of the MySQL bundle as it uses its IP for its foundation? If MySQL goes, and Drizzle stays, then Sun(/Oracle) will have a project for which it does not own the core IP. That can be perfectly fine, but that’s not what it’s been aiming for: Drizzle accepts contributions under BSD license, which means that the core IP owner (currently Sun) is actually able to dual-license it just like MySQL. Not saying that’s what it intends with Drizzle, but the arrangement currently makes Drizzle a potential net asset rather than merely a cool/useful project.

There’s plenty of independent interest (not just intellectual but business/money) in MySQL and Drizzle. I for one prefer that angle in the ecosystem now, it might be better off without core IP ownership. Dual licensing was ok for a time in MySQL’s history, but it’s fairly irrelevant and mainly a nuisance.

In any case… who would have thought, that little database originally written by Monty in Helsinki, causing so much trouble ;-)