Nearly three months back I asserted that Sun might benefit from addressing the fact that its open source portfolio lacks a unifying theme/brand. Today, news that the company is to acquire MySQL for $1bn triggered thoughts on Sun's new position as an evolving open source vendor. Undoubtedly, the financial/organizational impacts will be discussed across the entire blogosphere as well as mainstream outlets. Yet, I've come to a hypothesis that MySQL might be Sun's fifth element. All inconsequential associations to the 1997 production featuring Bruce Willis aside, it's worth noting that the buyout does nothing but boost Sun's position as a leading platform provider for the Web economy in spite of Java taking a back seat to LAMP, Rails, et al. Moreover, with MySQL under its corporate umbrella, the company is in possession of a potential catalyst for the continued emergence its own commercial open source ecosystem.
Here are my thoughts on the acquisition:
- MySQL should help to stimulate the relevance of Sun's tooling and Enterprise Application Infrastructure. Look no further than Oracle for an example of leveraging market share in the database market to cross-sell middleware. On a related note, the company will follow a similar approach with the newly acquired BEA suite that it has with Fusion middleware. Obviously MySQL is no 800-pound gorilla but it's not outlandish to envision GlassFish, OpenSolaris and Netbeans benefiting from the "cross-germination" opportunities made possible by the presence of MySQL. How and where to transform this into profitable engine for open source success is up to Sun's management to figure out.
- Sun will run with the MySQL and Data Warehousing. In addition to integrating current MySQL solution providers into its sales channel strategy, Sun is better positioned to grow the MySQL Data Warehouse Scale-Out Solution set into a bigger player across the enterprise data center landscape than MySQL was as a standalone entity. I'm looking for the company to make some noise there first.
- How will Sun play the LAMP angle? MySQL puts the M in LAMP, after all. And while Sun has already shown acceptance of the Rich Internet Applications & Web 2.0 "writing on the wall," see jMaki, the clarity/execution of its vision for harmonizing with MySQL's LAMP momentum will determine the which opportunities present themselves.
- Sun as a capable rival to IBM in the cloud computing arena. Cote made mention of this already and to his point I would add, the availability of MySQL might give its utility computing arm added mainstream appeal for ISVs already invested in the MySQL platform.
Moving forward this move might potentially represent an inflection point in Sun's maturation process as a commercial open source vendor. However, I fully expect the company to go through the growing pains of integrating a smaller, distributed team into a larger, and admittedly more stuffy, big corporate environment, a la Red Hat with JBoss...although perhaps not as pronounced considering the differences between MySQL and JBoss culture. Oddly enough, as the acquisition rumors swirled about MySQL, Sun wasn't on my buyers short list. However, upon announcement they are the vendor for whom the move made the most sense and is best positioned to emerge as a stronger combined entity. We'll see if this continues to prove true down the road...