More open source departures from Sun

Sun lost two more open-source executives, but the real test will be whether it can retain the MySQL business executives.

David Axmark, co-founder of MySQL, has left Sun, which acquired MySQL last year for $1 billion. Axmark's departure comes close on the heels of Monty Widenius' exit, and comes in the midst of a bad week for Sun, when its Linux distribution lead Barton George also quit Sun to join Lombardi Software.

The open-source exodus from Sun sounds similar to the significant JBoss executive departures from Red Hat post-acquisition, except for one key point: at JBoss it was the business folks (primarily) that left, whereas Sun is losing MySQL's engineering executives.

Even so, let's be clear: it was always going to be hard to retain the free-spirited Widenius and Axmark. Indeed, Axmark noted in his resignation:

I have thought about my role at Sun and decided that I am better off in smaller organisations. I HATE all the rules that I need to follow, and I also HATE breaking them. It would be far better for me to "retire" from employment and work with MySQL and Sun on a less formal basis.

I can sympathize. I've worked at two large organizations and found the bureaucracy stifling at both. Some people thrive in big companies. Others don't.

Axmark's departure from Sun is not the end for Sun's open-source business. However, Sun does need to focus on building the MySQL talent internal to Sun so that it can continue to strengthen this leading open-source database.

That said, I will be much more concerned for the health of MySQL within Sun if we hear of Marten Mickos or Zack Urlocker leaving. I know both of them and haven't heard rumblings of discontent from either one, but longer term anything is possible. It will be a credit to Sun and a testament to its long-term vitality if it can keep astute business thinkers like these guys on board. MySQL already built a fantastic database: it was just on the cusp of thinking through how to seriously monetize it.

For Widenius, Axmark, Arjen Lentz, and others that have left MySQL/Sun, I continue to wish them happiness. I hope you will "rejoin" the open-source business community soon.

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