Does Oracle mean it's the end for MySQL?

by Abhinna Shreshtha    Mar 25, 2010

With Oracle’s $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun, speculation has been
rife about the future of Sun’s popular database management system -
MySQL, and its range of open-source product porfolio.

The
Sun acquisition created a furor in the industry with the proposed deal
being initially blocked by the EU, who feared it would give Oracle
monopoly in the software market. Though the EU finally gave a go-ahead
to Sun, it didn’t put to rest doubts that Oracle would eventually let
MySQL die a slow death by stopping further development around the
product.

In fact, Michael Widenius, the original founder of
MySQL, questioned Oracle’s commitment to MySQL in a blog posting saying
that Oracle has more to gain by ’severely limiting and in the long run
even killing it as an open source product than by keeping it alive’.
Widenius had in fact even asked the governments of China and Russia to
block the proposed acquisition.

But is there any substance to these fears?

"I
think one of the most critical effects will be that now with having a
hardware stack competition with IBM in India will definitely become
more intense. We expect Oracle will seek to become a competitive force
in the open-source software (OSS) market and become aggressive in
system integration and large projects (such as government, large Web
and telecom). Java and MySQL offer the biggest "one-two punch" of the
acquisition. The acquisition will give Oracle the ability to build an
OSS stack with functionality similar to its proprietary stack, using
OSS components throughout," said Bhavish Sood, principal analyst of
Gartner.

Basically it means that Oracle does see a future for
the open-source version of MySQL, as long as it does not conflict with
the roadmap for its own proprietary database tools. How Oracle handles
this remains to be seen. When contacted, Oracle refused to make any
comments, though in an earlier analyst call, Oracle CEO - Larry
Ellison, had said that ‘Oracle will make MySQL better’, with Edward
Screven, Oracle’s chief open-source architect, promising that Oracle
will continue to support the open-source MySQL database.

Meanwhile,
even open-source players like Canonical remain unconcerned over the
storm surrounding MySQL. Speaking to CXOtoday, Prakash Advani of
Canonical said, "It is unlikely that Oracle will be allowed to close
down the open source version of MySQL. The open source community had
submitted suggestions to the European Union commission that looked into
the Oracle-Sun acquisition which specifically aimed at removing the
possibility of such an event taking place. However, in case something
like this does happen, developers can always create forks of MySQL."

In
fact, Widenius himself has created a fork of MySQL called MariaDB.
Things could probably become clearer in March when Oracle is slated to
hold conferences worldwide to announce their roadmap for Sun’s product
line and how they will be integrated into Oracle’s existing products.