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Oracle can help Sun, but will it lose MySQL?

Oracle risks alienating MySQL's developers, given that it might have little incentive to ensure its future success. This could provide fodder for a fruitful fork--by Red Hat.

The Register paints a very unflattering picture of Sun Microsystems' alleged mismanagement of its hardware and software assets.

Unfortunately, there's likely a lot of truth to the argument, though it's easy to point fingers from the outside and tell others what to do.

But this is precisely why Sun should be grateful for Oracle's acquisition of its assets: Oracle needn't appease internal or customer lobbies. It just needs to determine what pays the bills, and shutter or sell everything that doesn't.

The one open question for me, however, remains MySQL. Oracle could do much with the technology, but I'm skeptical that it has much incentive in ensuring a long and prosperous future for MySQL.

Regardless, it may not get the chance. As reported by OStatic, MySQL co-founder Monty Widenius has suggested that MySQLers' life under Sun was rocky enough, but Oracle may convince them to bolt:

Sun's acquisition of MySQL did not go smoothly; most of the MySQL leaders (both commercial and project) have left Sun, and the people who are left are sitting with their CV and ready to press send. Oracle, not having the best possible reputation in the open-source space, will have a hard time keeping the remaining MySQL people in the company or even working on the MySQL project.

Given the fracturing we've already seen with MySQL, what with OurDelta, Drizzle, MariaDB, and other variants on the MySQL theme emerging in the past year, I suspect that we may be in for several more forks of the MySQL code base. There's simply too much at stake in the database layer of computing to allow MySQL to be submerged by Oracle's other database priorities.

So here's a thought: could Red Hat fork MySQL, hire some key developers, and effectively assume the mantle of MySQL leadership?

I doubt that it has that ambition, as it would end up hurting its still-strong partnership with Oracle. It is more likely that Red Hat would offer to buy MySQL, if it made a move for MySQL at all, and I doubt that the two could find a mutually agreeable valuation.

Regardless, unless Red Hat could replace MySQL's dependence on InnoDB, it would lack the means to truly create an independent fork of MySQL. By controlling InnoDB, the primary storage engine for MySQL, Oracle effectively controls MySQL, regardless of whether it owns the MySQL code.

I'd like to see MySQL in Red Hat's hands. But Red Hat hasn't shown much near-term desire to get far beyond Linux. We're going to have to wait to see Red Hat become the full-stack competitor to Microsoft that some of us would like to see.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.