Unless you live under a rock you have by now heard that Oracle will be grabbing SUN. And if you care about databases, especially free databases, you know that SUN bought MySQL for a cool billion US$ not too long ago. Oracle is best known for its Oracle database and Oracle database is the largest contributor of revenue for Oracle as a company. MySQL is the most popular database product used by everyone from a pre-teen aspiring to be a hacker to the largest Internet properties like Facebook, Yahoo and Google. MySQL value proposition has never been its technology. As a matter of fact, technology is something that MySQL is quite light on. No, the entire value prop of MySQL is best expressed in the bold claim on the MySQL Enterprise Unlimited website.  

Deploy an unlimited number of MySQL Enterprise Servers for the price of a single CPU of Oracle Enterprise Edition

Take that Larry Ellison. There have been a number of industry watchers putting on a brave face and musing about a possibility that MySQL will somehow thrive as part of Oracle. I have no idea what drugs they are taking but they seem to be hallucinogenic. MySQL within Oracle is as good as dead. No, it will not be a quick and painless death of a press release announcing that MySQL is no more. It will be a torture of many years of MySQL of being a “walking wounded”. Publicly Oracle will profess its love for open source and it desire to leave MySQL alone to help it conquer the hearts and minds of the masses. Oracle will use examples of InnoDB (which it acquired to control MySQL oxigen suplly in the first place) and BerkleyDB (Sleepycat). The reality will be very different. One does not have to go very far to see what happens to free products at Oracle. Oracle XE is a free DBMS that Oracle put out there to get tractrion in the community. That was 3 years ago. It has not been updated or patched since despite hundreds of known security vulnerabilities in Oracle 10g R2 code base that Oracle Express Edition is based on. I expect that the future of MySQL in Oracle will not be much different. Progressiv slow down of new development, deteriorating quality of product support etc.

If Oracle does not sell MySQL to someone else, MySQL is as good as dead. It will slowly but surely loose steam with departure of key MySQL developers (many have left already). The pace of work on MySQL within Oracle will slow down to a crawl. At the same time, there will be friction with the true stewards of MySQL in the open source comunity. I just don’t see the open source folks who made it their philosophy to fight Oracle’s exhoirberant software license charges all of a sudden getting cosy with the enemy. Those that leave Oracle (and most of the best will leave because they are true believers of the ideals of the open source)  may join one of manyMySQL forking efforts that are already under way. However, I don’t believe that open source MySQL will thrive either. First Sun acquisition of MySQL and now Oracle acqusition, have fragmented the community and set the MySQL progress back years. It is possible that someone like Monty Widenius (founder and original developer of MySQL) will rally and unite the MySQL community and wrestle effective control out of Oracle’s hands. It will be a difficult thing to do, even for someone with Monty’s passion and determination. The exodus of MySQL talent has started long ago with SUN’s acquisition of MySQL and many of the key people have now dispersed and will be hard to bring them back even if Monty is prepared to hire. I think he realizes this; you can almost hear him say it in his blog.

The pundits have pronounced that Oracle acquisition of SUN is an industry changing event. I have no doubt that it is. However, for the world of databases this is not a change for the better. MySQL has always been an important player in this world applying significant pressure on commercial DBMS vendors like Oracle, IBM and Microsoft. I think this era is over. I don’t believe that MySQL will ever play the same role it once did. Maybe PostgreSQL will step in and fill the void. I know IBM will continue to offer DB2 Express-C free of charge and will continue to provide an alternative to the cripled Oracle XE product. I am just sad to see that MySQL will not be joining the fight as its future is getting more and more uncertain.