Thoughts on Oracle/Sun

Interesting quote about the Oracle/Sun acquisition from EETimes.com:

“Acquisitions have strengthened Sun’s position in the enterprise storage and business integration software markets, but have not positively affected the company’s business or financial profile.”

To put that another way: Sun has been attempting to achieve incremental successes at a game that nobody else really wants to play anymore. (I really liked another quote from this piece: Sun blamed “inconsistent profitability” for their downfall. I love “inconsistent profitability” as a euphemism for “losing money”; I hope I never have to use it with a straight face, but I’m prepared to if necessary.)

Some more thoughts on this:

1) Everybody’s touting the fact that “Oracle gets MySQL” in this deal. Sure, OK, there is the MySQL technology and the MySQL commercial licensing and support business. MySQL is generating revenue, but not the kind of revenue that’s interesting to a company the size of Oracle. My prediction is that Oracle’s sales force will do something dumb like treat MySQL as an entry-level product in hopes of upselling customers to the real (expensive) Oracle product, which won’t work because the kinds of organizations that want MySQL aren’t the kinds of organizations that want Oracle.

2) Ultimately the open source thing inoculates the MySQL product from a lot of potential corporate evil, which is one of the points of the open-source exercise in the first place. Open source means that if things get too onerous, the community can more or less take its ball and go home if it wants. And this is already happening; MySQL is already being forked (by independent companies like Percona as well as internally within Sun via the Drizzle project). Percona is usable in production today, but Drizzle is not (because that project got started more recently and is aiming at a more ambitious gutting and rearchitecture of the MySQL code base rather than incremental patches and improvements). Still, it is fair to say that if you are looking for the most advanced/optimized MySQL distribution today, you won’t get it from Sun, and I wouldn’t expect that to change under the Oracle regime.

3) A bigger meta-problem: Oracle has always had a serious problem with developer community relations and developer usability of their products. If they were to invest in one area to make this acquisition go more smoothly, it would be this — there are enormous bang-for-the-buck opportunities for them here. (I say this because of Oracle’s historical track record with managing its developer platforms as well as the visceral fear and outright revulsion I’m hearing today from developers after we got wind of this news.) It might have been possible for Oracle to mine the MySQL community for help here if this deal had materialized a year ago, but it seems like a lot of the principal MySQL community folks have either moved on from Sun or gone over to projects like Drizzle.

4) I do think the acquisition makes sense on some levels. There may be a good synergy with Oracle and Java, although Java was never an interesting business from a dollars and cents perspective and I don’t expect Oracle’s stewardship of the language to change things that much.

5) Many more junior- and mid-level salespeople in Silicon Valley are going to be without jobs in six months.

6) No clue what Oracle’s going to do with Sun’s hardware business, but it doesn’t really seem synergistic (and it screws up some of Oracle’s flagship partnerships with companies like Dell and HP). My guess is that they’ll shift it into some kind of maintenance mode.

7) Meanwhile, I am wondering whether HP shouldn’t pursue its own MySQL acquisition. I don’t know if there’s a “there there” in a potential HP acquisition of (for example) Percona, but if Oracle is going to compete with HP on hardware, HP should be prepared to compete with Oracle on databases and applications.

8) It’s interesting that an acquisition of this magnitude can take place without so much of a mention for what it might mean for Microsoft. I think that this can be looked at as a barometer of Microsoft’s relevance for enterprise computing.

Update: In his post on this, Matt says “I would not be surprised if this moment is for Drizzle what Movable Type changing their licensing was for WordPress, even though in this case they’re both Open Source.”