Oracle snags open-source database company

Database giant buys Sleepycat Software and adds an open-source embedded database to its lineup.

Oracle said on Tuesday that it acquired open-source database company Sleepycat Software for an undisclosed sum.

The database giant said Sleepycat's open-source Berkeley DB database will complement Oracle's existing line of closed-source databases for embedding within applications. The products differ from Oracle's flagship enterprise database software used for general business systems.

The purchase of Sleepycat, which has been rumored for weeks, gives Oracle another open-source product to accompany its proprietary database offerings. At an investor conference last week, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison reiterated the company's strategy to generate revenue from a combination of open-source and proprietary software.

"This gives us a chance to further embrace open source and learn the business model," said Robert Shimp, vice president of technology marketing at Oracle. "By having this technology we gain a lot more access and insight into projects worldwide."

Oracle will continue to operate Sleepycat as a stand-alone business and maintain current employees' activities in Berkeley DB open-source project activities, Shimp said.

Unlike Oracle's flagship , Sleepycat's Berkeley DB is intended to be embedded within applications. Many of Sleepycat's customers are third-party software companies or value-added resellers, Sleepycat CEO Michael Olson said Monday in an interview with CNET News.com.

"People use Berkeley DB where they don't need the full power of SQL" relational database systems, Olson said. "In systems or devices, where you have to keep data safe and fast but you can predict its use in advance. Think e-mail servers, or switches and routers."

Emeryville, Calif.-based Sleepycat uses a dual-license model: It makes a free, open-source version of its database available, and it has a commercial license for paying customers.

Shimp said that Berkeley DB will fill out Oracle's embedded database product line. Its Oracle Database Lite database is aimed at mobile devices and its TimesTen database, which it acquired last year, is for high-performance, transaction-intensive databases, he said.

Sleepycat is the second open-source database company Oracle has purchased in the past several months. In October, Oracle purchased a small Finnish company called Innobase, which supplies a storage engine for MySQL, an open-source database which, along with open-source companies, is posing a greater competitive threat to Oracle's database business.

Sleepycat, too, can be used as a storage engine with MySQL. Shimp said that its acquisitions of Innobase and Sleepycat do not change Oracle's relationship with MySQL and that both companies will operate as stand-alone entities within Oracle.

In a blog entry on Tuesday, Olson said that Sleepycat is committed to open source. "The open source community remains a critical factor in our success. Our commitment to that community is as strong today as it has always been," he wrote.

In response to pressure from low-end databases, Oracle recently released a free version of Oracle's 10g database.

Oracle is also reported to be in talks to buy open-source middleware company and Zend Technologies. None of the companies will comment on the rumors.