What Sun Should Be Doing With MySQL

from the good-advice dept

Earlier this year, Sun scooped up MySQL for a cool $1 billion. However, while Sun has been somewhat friendly towards open source software, there were plenty of concerns about what the company planned to do with MySQL. Some of those fears are now being realized. After first disappearing some of MySQL's public statements on the evilness of software patents, Sun caused quite a bit of controversy with a plan to close source certain new features in an attempt to push people to upgrade to a premium, paid version of the software. While that's certainly one strategy, it could be a dangerous one, ticking off many MySQL users who will go searching for alternatives.

So, what could Sun do with MySQL to help build a bigger and better business that doesn't involve locking up any software? The blog Milking The Gnu has a very interesting suggestion that makes a lot of sense (and certainly fits in directly with the economics we discuss around here). The idea is not to worry about locking up the software, but to turn MySQL into a cloud computing web-platform. The reasoning makes a tremendous amount of sense (much more than Sun's current strategy). Basically, on the low end, you have folks who will never pay for a premium version of MySQL anyway. At the high end, most of those companies (if pushed) will probably lean towards Oracle or IBM. But in the middle-tier there's a real opportunity -- not to be a database software company, but to build that all important web platform we've been discussing.

Already, Amazon and Google are trying to build that platform, with Amazon seeing a fair bit of success (and Google just starting). Sun has promoted the concept of cloud computing for years, so why not flip things around and make MySQL the database part of a cloud computing offering. With so many folks already comfortable with MySQL, it will be much easier for many of them to embrace this offering, rather than having to figure out the details of Amazon's SimpleDB or Google's AppEngine/BigTable setup. Then, the more people you get to adopt the free open source version of MySQL, the more likely they are to make use of Sun's cloud computing offering over the alternatives. And, then, Sun can charge for the use of cloud computing resources (scarce resources) while knowing that the infinite nature of MySQL promotes that scarce good. Given that Sun's been such a promoter of cloud computing for so long, you would think this was a no-brainer. But it's latest actions with MySQL suggest it may be going in a different direction, and that's unfortunate. Update: Marten Mickos of MySQL/Sun responds in the comments, and Glyn Moody points us to an interview he recently conducted with Mickos suggesting that Mickos is thinking along similar lines about cloud computing.

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  • identicon
    Marten Mickos, 23 Apr 2008 @ 2:23pm

    MySQL comments

    Thanks for writing about us! I agree that the cloud suggestion at Milking the Gnu is intriguing. It is also similar to some of our own thinking.

    As for the business model decision, please note that it was made by MySQL AB before the acquisition. So this was not Sun's hand at play. At MySQL AB we have always taken revenue generation seriously and we feel we need to continue to explore new business models until we find the perfect one.

    It never is easy to pioneer new models, but then we are not looking to make things the easy way per se. We are looking to create a hugely successful business on the principles of free and open source software. Just as it sometimes takes a little bit of salt to enhance the sweet taste, we are ready to experiment with a little bit of features for paying customers only if that allows to hire more open source developers and produce more GPL code.

    We are eager to hear the comments and suggestions from our community, so please keep blogging and please keep sending us your emails!

    formerly CEO of MySQL AB, now SVP at Sun

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kyle Shank, 23 Apr 2008 @ 2:40pm

    Container + Database in the cloud

    If Sun can deliver expertise on scaling the application container and MySQL delivers a database service that would make a killer cloud combination.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jonnyq, 23 Apr 2008 @ 2:55pm

    My opinion on what sun should do

    I don't buy the notion that MySQL can't win with "big" customers. While MySQL is still missing some features and has some newer immature features, it's still growing and there's no reason it can't function as well as Oracle in every way.

    I just saw this:

    Having Java be (completely) open source is a great step.

    I hope Sun doesn't try to focus too much on Solaris. There have been speculators that Sun would make MySQL focus less on Linux, turning LAMP into SAMP. That would be the wrong direction. What Sun needs is a dirt simple web server to run Java (ever tried to set up Tomcat?), or a killer Apache module for Java. If you're not savvy enough to set up JSP, there's no real solution for compiled, persistent web applications outside of ASP.NET. To have all the benefits of Linux, Apache and MySQL with the benefit of compiles JSP applications, you could really shake something up in web development. With Java's ability to interpret Python and Ruby (Jython and JRuby) you don't lose the benefit of interpreted scripts either.

    That would be a dream for me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Boris M Aguirre, 23 Apr 2008 @ 3:21pm

    As big industries grow...

    Small, but good, companies are disappearing. Now MySQL team members are Sun's members and the big minds are hidden, for sure, getting the money they deserve. Good for them.

    But, is THAT hard to ask? Big minds working for themeselves, just for that rare thing called "happiness"? As we still believe that thing be "money", this world is going to be owned by one company or person, whatever this be. Just one! From Japan, US, UK... nevermind.

    Bye bye MySQL, was good to know you.

    ps. Please, let me know when Microsoft scoop up McDonald's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mtg, 23 Apr 2008 @ 3:21pm

    For those interested

    The general address of the blog Milking The GNU in addition to the post already quoted in the article

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2008 @ 5:16pm

    I assume that the term "cloud computing" is the same as "web application".
    I personally would not be interested, but I suppose a lot of people would use it given the right conditions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    alternatives, 23 Apr 2008 @ 5:19pm

    MySQL can do whatever they want

    Because the BSD licensed Postgresql works as well if not better. An actual Open Sourced solution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2008 @ 5:33pm

    This kind of application stack would be a killer application. I wonder how many know that GoDaddy has been doing this for a while.

    but if it was scalable to use grid computing, and decentralized concepts, oh... unstopable!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JohnOpincar, 23 Apr 2008 @ 8:23pm

    Clould Computing = API, not MySQL

    Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm not seeing the connection between MySQL and cloud computing. Does MySQL offer some really great distributed database technology I haven't heard about?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brad, 24 Apr 2008 @ 1:43am


    Well, time to migrate all my apps to Postgres.

    Fortunately, I use Rails for all my latest work, so it's a matter of changing a line and running "rake db:migrate"

    Yay new languages!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lisa Westveld, 24 Apr 2008 @ 4:19am

    If Sun closes the MySQL Sourcecode...

    If Sun close sources MySQL features then others will take whatever is available of MySQL as open-source and will branch off a separate MySQL product similar to the stuff Sun offers but then open instead of closed. Something similar happened in the past already when a database system called InterBase became open-source for a short moment. It was closed pretty fast afterwards but it gave the open-source community a chance to branch off from the InterBase product and create something called FireBird. (See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firebird_(database_server) )

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jason, 24 Apr 2008 @ 9:12am


    Of course, salt and sweet really only "sell well" in the Nordic markets, so I'm not sure that's the best metaphor for justifying a premium price point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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