What Sun's acquisition of MySQL means for the software industry

Sun's acquisition of MySQL has broad implications for the software industry.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
2 min read

Sun Microsystems has acquired MySQL for $1 billion in cash and options. That's now old news. The implications of the deal, however, have yet to be felt, but this deal means several key things for open source.

In no particular order:

  • Sun is directly competing with Red Hat to become the heart of the open-source business community. I've written before that either Red Hat with its operating system or MySQL with its database could become the center of an alternative ecosystem to the Proprietary Bloc (Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM). With Sun at the helm of MySQL, MySQL just became a lot more credible in this role as it now has cash to match its ambition.

  • Sun will be a top suitor for open-source companies. I've written on this before, too, but now that Sun has acquired MySQL it will be easier for other open-source companies to follow suit. If Sun does a better job with this acquisition than Red Hat did with JBoss, Sun may well become the preferred destination for open-source companies that are amenable to acquisition (and everyone is at the right price).

  • Just as ex-JBossers have gone on to start/join other open-source companies, MySQL should flower into a few spin-off companies, as well. Hopefully (for Sun), this won't happen immediately. But over the medium turn it will be excellent to have MySQL's open-source savvy, battle-hardened team back in the market forming new open-source ventures. JBoss is working for us at LoopFuse, Red Hat, Appcelerator, XAware, and others (including one that is very stealth but which is also hugely interesting given one key person involved). This is good for the industry. We need this experience and the cash plowed back into commercial open source.

  • It demonstrates that open source is worth an excellent multiple. No, we're not in Web 2.0 funny money land, but that's a good thing. The multiples/valuations we've seen for XenSource, MySQL, JBoss, and Zimbra demonstrate healthy demand and healthy respect for open source.

  • There are really only three big open-source vendors. Sun, Red Hat, and...Yahoo. I could maybe throw Google in that mix, as well, but Google doesn't yet seem to be taking the public approach to aggressively releasing and acquiring open source as part of its business methodology--at least, not to the same degree as Yahoo. These are likely to be the big aggregators of open-source companies.

  • Oracle may be in for a fight as it attempts to consolidate the industry around its proprietary platform. Sun (and Red Hat) is offering an open-source alternative to proprietary lock-in on a massive scale. With Sun's reputation for quality, it may well be able to help grow the mission-critical image of software like MySQL such that the open-source ecosystem will even more effectively compete against the Proprietary Bloc.
That's it for now. I'm sure I'll think of more. Exciting times to be in the open-source revolution. Burn the boats.