Oracle and MySQL: Ally or Die?

By Craig Buckler

MySQL OracleMuch to the industry’s surprise, Oracle has bought Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion following the breakdown in talks with IBM. Sun’s future appeared to be uncertain and few expected Oracle to be waiting patiently in the wings (although it does explain why Sun was prepared to walk away from IBM’s offer).

There are several good reasons why Oracle wanted Sun…

  • Sun’s hardware and backup solutions could be good for Oracle’s software
  • the Java programming language
  • VirtualBox Virtual Machine software
  • OpenOffice
  • and MySQL – the world’s most popular open-source database.

Whilst MySQL and Oracle are not exactly direct competitors, those of a more cynical disposition would expect Oracle to kill off the competing database. That could be difficult since MySQL is open-source and anyone can contribute to the application. However, Oracle could starve the project of resources.

It is also possible that Oracle do not want MySQL, perhaps because of anti-competition laws? They could “sell” MySQL to another company – would IBM still be interested?

However, I suspect Oracle will prefer to keep MySQL; they will control an even larger segment of the database market and can tap into the existing user base. They may provide further investment and create tools that enhance the relationship between the two systems, e.g. an easy upgrade path for those requiring more powerful database facilities.

Unfortunately, many of the MySQL leaders and developers have left Sun following the company’s structural and financial problems. Michael Widenius, founder and original developer of the database, has announced that he will hire all core MySQL personnel and fork the project to create an independent and true open source entity. He is prepared to work closely with Oracle to ensure MySQL is actively developed in an open manner with the trust and support of customers, developers, and users.

Whatever happens, the future of MySQL appears to be assured. However, the direction the project will take is uncertain and who knows what Larry Ellison is planning?

  • I can’t see how Oracle and MySql will be allies?

    Oracle sooner or latter will terminate Mysql Project to focus more on its own core system.

  • I disagree – I think Oracle will keep it. MySQL is something that can be monetized and can provide hot leads for Oracle. As a developer who works with MySQL, if I run into a project that needs a lot more power than what I’m using, why would I move to anything except Oracle if they integrate tools and/or training.
    But also, they could create a division that can offer training, books, seminars, support… they can make money from MySQL, just like Zend has made a company off PHP. Just because something is open source doesn’t mean you can’t make money. In the same way that if something is free you can still make money (think hotmail, facebook, google…). I think you’re understimating Oracle if you think they will simply abandon the project – not to mention that paying 7.4 billion dollars to simply kill a competitor? Having MySQL out of the way isn’t going to generate that much sales…

  • orokusaki

    It is a ridiculous and very uninformed assumption on anybody’s part that Oracle would ever kill MySQL. It’s not really competition if they own it. The can position MySQL in a way that promotes Oracle now, rather than just funding MySQL and letting it be. Even if it wasn’t for that fact, killing the project would draw loads of negative attention to Oracle and make them “evil”.

  • orokusaki


    On that thought however, Oracle didn’t buy MySQL. They bought Sun’s superior hardware that trumps anything else in the world. They also didn’t buy Java. Those are just extras that came along with the package.

  • evodanh

    To jeffvdovjak:

    Just because something is open source doesn’t mean you can’t make money. In the same way that if something is free you can still make money (think hotmail, facebook, google…)

    hotmail, facebook, google is free but not opensource.

  • W2ttsy

    The free ware market is still very real (even more so in economic difficult times). It would be a massive failure to abandon that following. Especially when replacing it with a clumsy expensive enterprise solution. If mysql did get canned others like postgres would just take it’s place in the LAMP stack. Not many mysql developers would ever need oracle so canning it would just push the few leads towards another OSS solution

  • adimauro


    I agree completely. There is no logical jump from MySQL to Oracle. If they dump it, they will just be loosing all those users to another open source solution, not to mention all the web hosts out there that provide MySQL. It doesn’t make sense to drop it.

    The real question: Will MySQL be re-branded? i.e. OracleFree, MyOracle…some name with Oracle in it? I could see them doing that, but not dropping it all together.

  • Tarh


    hotmail, facebook, google is free but not opensource.

    You missed the point of jeffvdovjak’s post. He wrote:

    In the same way that…

    to draw a comparison between the two scenarios. He never said that Hotmail, Facebook, or Google were open-source.

  • @ Tarh

    I know Oracle didn’t buy Sun Microsystems for their software — but as an added perk it’s pretty good. I just couldn’t see them abandoning any of it after spending 7.4 billion… They wanted the hardware and infrastructure – but getting those as bonuses are big bonuses. It can turn them into major internet players as well. They’d be smart to monetize it (adding paid features or support, ect…) Not to mention they could easily push into server farms with those names. It’d just be so foolish to throw them away. It’s like throwing away the roof racks, the spare tire, and the car mats because when you bought your new car you weren’t purchasing it for those extras…

  • jerichvc

    I wish google bought sun microsystems. :P

  • Based on today’s market it would be a management mistake to drop MySql because it offers a large customer base especially for the short term. Looking at it on a long term basis however, it could be used to harvest and move customers into either product depending on whether the conditions of Oracle’s current product strategy.

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