Users say Sun needs to fix what's broken at MySQL

Sun's acquisition will bring it an open-source database -- and some unhappy customers

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Sun already distributes the PostgreSQL open-source database on its Solaris-based servers; on the company's Web site, it touts PostgreSQL for Solaris 10 as "the open-source enterprise database platform of choice." But Schwartz described the purchase of MySQL as "the most important acquisition" ever made by Sun -- indicating that MySQL's software likely will eclipse PostgreSQL on Sun's priority list.

In addition to introducing the internal issues of MySQL, the deal could complicate Sun's relationship with Oracle Corp., which is Sun's largest database partner. MySQL competes directly with Oracle and other database vendors. Also, Oracle owns InnoDB, after having bought the storage engine's developer, Innobase Oy, in late 2005.

"Now that [MySQL] is going to be supported by a major vendor, there's lots of companies that are going to give it a serious look," said Robert Lepanto, Oracle applications manager at AppCentric Solutions LLC in Stamford, Conn. "I would think that's a serious long-term threat to Oracle."

Lepanto, who also is president of the New York City Metro Oracle Applications Users Group, added that he's surprised that Oracle "didn't buy [MySQL] first to squash the competition."

Daniel Grim, executive director of networks and systems at the University of Delaware in Newark, has an enterprisewide license for Oracle databases but also sees value in the open-source alternatives.

"We've often found Oracle is more complex and more cumbersome than things like PostgreSQL and MySQL are," Grim said. "So we use those for small applications, although some of [the] applications are quite large, such as monitoring networking traffic."

In addition to Google, Yahoo and SmugMug, MySQL's wide-ranging customer list includes some of the darlings of the Web 2.0 era, such as Facebook Inc. and YouTube Inc., as well as more traditional businesses like Toyota Motor Corp. and Southwest Airlines Co.

The buyout deal ends widespread speculation about the future of MySQL. Before agreeing to sell to Sun, the company had been on track for an initial public offering, said Kevin Harvey, a partner at venture firm Benchmark Capital and chairman of MySQL's board of directors. Menlo Park, Calif.-based Benchmark has a 26% stake in MySQL, and it uses the open-source database to help power its Web site.

One of the questions that Sun continually faces is how it can improve its bottom line while offering key technologies such as Solaris and Java on an open-source basis. But Harvey said that from his perspective, open source "very clearly" can be "turned into a fantastic business model."

Brian Fonseca and Eric Lai contributed to this story.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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