Sun acquires MySQL

After all the industry speculation about MySQL being a “hot 2008 IPO”, this probably takes most of us by surprise — users, community members, customers, partners, and employees. And for all of these stakeholders, it may take some time to digest what this means. Depending on one’s relationship to MySQL, the immediate reaction upon hearing the news may be a mixture of various feelings, including excitement, pride, disbelief and satisfaction, but also anxiety.

Being part of the group planning this announcement for the last few weeks, I have had the fortune to contemplate the consequences during several partially sleepless nights (I usually sleep like a log). And over the coming days and weeks, I’ll provide a series of blogs with various viewpoints of the deal.

First of all, let’s point out a couple of facts about Sun Microsystems — since all MySQL stakeholders may not be fully up to speed about Sun.

Facts on Sun Microsystems

  • Founded 1982 by Andreas von Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy and Scott McNealy
  • 34.200 employees worldwide, 13.9 billion dollars (9.4 billion euros) in revenues FY 2007, market cap (total value of all Sun shares) about the same as yearly revenues
  • Grew astronomically with the Web, suffered from the Web bubble, now profitable over the last four quarters
  • Lead by Scott McNealy until 2006, now by Jonathan Schwartz (a prolific blogger)
  • The world’s biggest contributor to Open Source: Open Office, Java (now under GPL), GlassFish, NetBeans — and soon MySQL
  • Environmentally friendly; large numbers of distributed employees working at least partially from home
  • Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, just south of Cupertino (MySQL’s North American headquarters)
  • Counts some of the worlds most brilliant innovators amongst its current and past employees

For me personally, I’m excited to get the opportunity to actively contribute to the successful integration of MySQL into Sun. I want to make an impact in merging our corporate cultures, and I look forward to making that a bi-directional process. Since I am based outside the US, I am particularly excited about meeting the many Sun engineers located in Hamburg (Germany), Grenoble (France), Prague (Czech Republic), St Petersburg (Russia), Beijing (China) and Bangalore (India).

But let me now turn to the more general planned implications of Sun’s acquisition of MySQL AB.

What does the acquisition of MySQL by Sun mean for MySQL users?

Given Sun’s proven track record as the largest contributor to Open Source, I think MySQL users have plenty of reason to feel happy about the acquisition. There are many companies that attempt to ride the wave of positive attention towards Open Source, but in my judgement, Sun gets it right. Sun gets Open Source. Java has been released under the GPL. There’s the OpenSolaris operating system. There’s Open Office / Star Office. There’s the GlassFish application server. There’s the NetBeans IDE tool. And more.

Sun’s track record is embodied by individuals with a solid set of FOSS values, such as Simon Phipps (Sun’s Chief Open Source Officer), Ian Murdock (Debian founder, now Sun’s Chief OS Strategist), and Josh Berkus (PostgreSQL lead). I’ve met all three in various FOSS arenas, I respect their work, and I am looking forward to be working closely with them.

Anxiety on the part of MySQL users may stem from Sun’s success with Java and Solaris. Will MySQL’s support for other programming languages and operating systems now be given less attention?

Absolutely not. MySQL is still being managed by the same people, and the charter is still the same. There is no need for reducing the set of platforms or languages. It only makes sense for us to continue to support defacto Web development standards like LAMP, as well as emerging ones like Ruby and Eclipse. This deal is about addition, not subtraction.

But let’s dwell on the topic of Solaris a bit. Solaris has a special position in the heart of MySQL, as it was the first platform under which MySQL was developed. Linux came second. Internally, code coverage tests were long performed just on Sun. And with the DTrace probes planned as part of 6.0, some types of optimisation of MySQL applications are the easiest on Solaris.

I would expect that having access to the topmost Solaris and Java experts within the same company will accelerate our development for the benefit of MySQL users on the Solaris platform, and in the Java environment, respectively.

But I don’t expect that in any way to be at the cost of other popular operating systems (Linux, Windows, Mac OS/X, other Unixes etc.) or development environments (PHP, Ruby on Rails, Perl, Python, ODBC, C++, C#, VB etc.). MySQL grew with LAMP and MySQL without LAMP at its core is simply unimaginable. It was MySQLs part of LAMP that interested Sun in the first place. Hence I don’t see Sun having a platform migration strategy, but to continue to be an integral part of the dot in .com.

So while the news may be especially good for MySQL users on Solaris and/or Java, the news is definitely good irrespective of environment: As part of Sun, the MySQL database will have immediate access to technical, marketing, OSS developer relations and sales rescources that would have taken us years to build as an independent company.

What does the acquisition of MySQL by Sun mean for the core MySQL community?

I’d like to think that the acquisition of MySQL by Sun will be seen as good news also by the core group of users who form the active MySQL community. This is because Sun is a safe haven for MySQL. Sun knows Open Source, and to the extent things change, I expect Sun to add value to our community. I don’t expect huge change, though. We continue to work with our quality contributors, we continue to provide our MySQL Forums, the Planet MySQL blog aggregator, we remain on the #mysql-dev and #mysql channels on Freenode, we provide MySQL University lessons, we meet at the MySQL Users Conference. We’ll put effort into connecting the many FOSS enthusiasts and experts at Sun — whom we will now learn to know better — with our active user community.

What does the acquisition of MySQL by Sun mean for the MySQL employees?

Admittedly, this blog is not directed at MySQL employees. We have a different, internal blog called “Village MySQL” for that purpose (as opposed to “Planet MySQL”). But many of our users, community members, customers, and partners have close relationships with MySQL employees — and you may be interested in what Sun’s acquisition of MySQL means for the employees.

For employees, Sun’s acquisition means continuity. Mårten Mickos will continue to lead us, and our executives and key engineering leads plan to join Sun. In addition, our existing engineering staff will be invited to come over as well. Sun executives have made us feel very welcomed and valued.

Very important for our employees is the fact that we can continue to work on Free and Open Source software. We can continue to work from home (as most of us do, including myself). Titles, reporting structures, and long-term goals may change, but as acquisition goes, the Sun culture as I’ve experienced it so far seems fairly similar to ours.

And — whether it’s destiny, divinity or just good luck — we get the opportunity to digest all of this together, during the MySQL All-Company Meeting here in Orlando. It goes on this week until Saturday 19 Jan.

Being acquired by Sun is unique for all of us MySQLers. But for two very special employees, it’s something even more. I’m thinking of our founders, Michael “Monty” Widenius and David Axmark. I’m very happy for them. Sure, the transaction has a financial impact on them, and it’s positive. But we’re humble Scandinavians, so we don’t flash money, nor even talk about it. More importantly, I can see their heritage being in good hands at Sun. They didn’t develop MySQL in order to Get Rich Quick; in fact, they rejected offers that would have accomplished that goal during the Bubble. They developed MySQL in order to have a positive impact on the world of computing. And as a step in that direction, they took in venture financing.

VCs are more motivated by money than our founders, and obviously look for a return on their investment. That involves either an IPO or a trade sale. Of all candidates to acquire MySQL, I cannot imagine a more ideal buyer from a founder perspective than Sun Microsystems. If I know our founders right (and I’ve known Monty since the late 1970s and David since the 1980s), they will use this deal as an opportunity to accomplish even more within the space of Open Source and Sun Microsystems.

Congratulations, Monty and David! And congratulations, MySQL users, community members, customers, partners and employees!


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