Tuesday, April 21, 2009

MySQL's best days are yet to come

Just because I'm running a fever and it feels like slightly under a billion degrees outside doesn't mean I'm losing my mind. I really do think MySQL has a lot more good than bad coming in its future with Oracle at the helm.

The difference between Sun and Oracle is that while Sun did grok Open Source (mostly), MySQL was never a particularly good strategic fit for them. One of the great values of MySQL is that it's very easy to get started with and runs well on a moderately powered x86 box -- you don't need to buy Sun gear running Solaris and ZFS to do that. Thus the synergies that Sun hoped for never emerged. Instead, the heavy handed approach to software management and release necessary for extremely large projects like Solaris and Java was applied to a moderately sized project (by comparison) and the results were not good. Developers coming from the startup environment and transparent development cycle slowly moved on and the project started languishing with the poor acceptance of 5.1 highlighting this failure.

Oracle, by comparison, does get value for MySQL.

Oracle has never been known for low end products. They do big enterprise databases and big enterprise applications. Their idea of a small CRM deployment easily runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. For a long time, there was simply a void at the low end that was never filled by upwardly mobile software.

That is, until Microsoft Access joined hands with Microsoft SQL server and sang happy songs of tight integration. If you're doing a small Microsoft application, using Access and MSDE is a quick way to do it with great links to the entire Office Suite. Now your upward migration as the application grows is clear: SQL Server. The other players don't have a real chance. (Yes, yes... Access does ODBC with connectors to Oracle, MySQL, and others, but come on... let's be realistic here...) And the cost of entry to this game? $175 on Amazon for a single user license, no additional discounts. If you're even a moderately large company, you probably already got it as part of a site-wide license.

Meanwhile, Oracle priced itself out of the low end and essentially gave the .com boom to MySQL which has bitten them ever since. What started as a small, simple, database has grown considerably with large noteworthy installments in the ecommerce space. This is showing the enterprise that MySQL can scale to support large, complex applications at a fraction of the cost. As a result, Oracle has been getting the bottom end of its market threatened by MySQL. Between clouds, SaaS, and an increasing number of applications that leverage MySQL, the market impact is starting to creep into Oracle's home turf.

While the bulk of Sun's value to Oracle comes from Sun's hardware, operating system, and Java holdings, I doubt that the ownership of MySQL is lost on them. Whereas MySQL lacked solid direction in Sun, Oracle will likely lay out clear vision and weave a compelling story that will put Microsoft and IBM on edge. MySQL will not be a second class citizen because it will evolve into Oracle's entry market with a compelling transition path to the enterprise class stuff that Oracle already sells. The good news for MySQL is that there is a lot of headroom for growth and improvement in this model since Oracle's current products start near the stratosphere and go up.

MySQL's best days are yet to come.


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