15 minutes with Jonathan Schwartz: Java and Linux

Sun has a new piece in its portfolio called MySQL. What does this mean for the company?

Sun formally completed its acquisition of MySQL on Tuesday. I was fortunate to spend 15 minutes on the phone with Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun, after the press conference.

I asked him a range of questions about criticism of Sun over Linux, as well as whether the MySQL integration would be as prickly as Red Hat's acquisition of JBoss was at times.

As usual, Schwartz didn't disappoint.

The Linux Foundation's Amanda McPherson recently called you out over Sun's continued push for Solaris despite Linux's rise. Why aren't you giving up?

We're a for-profit company, one that is investing billions of dollars into open-source software development. In order for us to be able to do so, we need to focus on the products and services that our customers want. For us, this means OpenSolaris.

One of the great things about the open-source community is that it represents a diversity of voices and interests. It's not a monoculture. If the Linux Foundation wants to become the Open Source Foundation, I'd be very supportive of that. Until that point, however, there's real value in Sun continuing to develop and support Solaris as a valuable member of the open-source ecosystem.

On the topic of community, Sun has taken criticism over the years as being overly controlling of the communities in which it participates, most notably Java.

Consider the fact that Java powers billions of mobile devices, that it won out as part of the Blu-ray standards war, that it is the platform of choice for a wide array of enterprises. Sun has been very active and very open in working with the development (and corporate) communities with Java.

I think you'd find that sometimes those who yell loudest about Sun not being "open enough" with Java and other Sun-sponsored technologies are the same companies who try to cut secret deals with us on these same technologies to benefit them...and primarily them. There are very different private agendas in play other than those that show up in public forums.

Sun takes the open-source development community and our other communities very seriously.

Turning to MySQL, how long do you think it will take before MySQL is fully integrated into Sun? We saw with Red Hat and its JBoss acquisition that this can be a slow, laborious process....

We're already well on our way. In fact, in many ways we've already arrived. It's all we can do to keep the Sun teams (sales, engineering, etc.) from overloading our less numerous MySQL friends. Everyone in the company wants to work with these guys.

Keep in mind that Red Hat's acquisition of JBoss was perhaps more difficult than MySQL will be for us, for several reasons.

First, the personalities involved. Let's just say that integrating Marten Mickos into a company might be easier than assimilating a few of the JBoss personalities. Marten is a joy to work with and will make this integration work.

Second, had Red Hat aimed for $5 million or $50 million growth with JBoss initially it would arguably have been easier to accomplish. But Red Hat is talking about a $500 million increase, which requires it to go up against the biggest vendors in its space (BEA and IBM). This is a more difficult task.

Third, Sun has a wide portfolio of products, unlike Red Hat, which was essentially an operating system company. We have everything from Solaris to identity management to storage. As such, we're used to selling on top of third-party platforms. Sun isn't the primary platform for many of our products. MySQL does most of its business on Linux and Windows. We don't have a problem dealing with that. It's in our DNA.

Who is the big winner in this? MySQL or Sun? Who gets most from the relationship?

I think there's a lot of value going both ways. For MySQL, it gets resources and a range of other benefits. For Sun, we get many things, too, one of which is brand association.

A few times each year we do developer surveys with thousands of respondents. In the last two surveys, OpenSolaris is finally recognized by more respondents than Solaris. Our message of "openness" is clearly getting out. More developers know about MySQL than OpenSolaris. As they come to associate MySQL with Sun, that brand association will help all of our products.

One can fault Schwartz for many things, perhaps, but ambition is not one of them. I'm a big believer in what Sun is doing. It has a long way to go, but it has the right understanding and commitments to get there. It also has the right leadership. I suspect management meetings with Schwartz and Mickos in the same room are going to be fun, productive, and insightful.

Update at 9:45 a.m. February 27: In the original post, I noted that I wasn't absolutely sure about one quote from Schwartz. That note has been removed because I haven't heard from Sun that anything was wrong with it.

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