Oracle Sun Merger Closes

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Oracle acquisition of Sun has closed. From MySQL and Java to OpenSolaris, OpenOffice.org and more; it’s difficult to understate the potential impact this will have on the Open Source community. Many people are skeptical of Oracle. This perception, correct or incorrect, may have the ability to negatively impact some of the communities that this acquisition affects. One point that is difficult to argue with is that Oracle is maniacally focused on profitability. That wasn’t always the case with Sun and I’d expect there to be some immediate changes as a result of this. Shortly after the deal closed, Oracle had a five hour webcast discussing Oracle’s plans. As Stephen O’Grady notes, “Between Ellison, Kurian, Phillips and the rest, we got our share of answers yesterday. But as is almost always the case in such situations, there was as much left unsaid as said”. A few tidbits from his very good Q&A:

Q: What’s the big picture of this transaction?
A: What was old is new again? A couple of years back, some of the best and brightest Solaris engineers began blurring the lines between what was hardware and what was software. This skunkworks project was called Fishworks, for Fully Integrated Software and Hardware…works. Basically the project was a storage device that blended features of Solaris (DTrace, ZFS, etc) with some impressive analytics, and an interesting storage hybrid incorporating both disk and flash storage elements. It’s hardware like this, I think, that is the future for Oracle.

Q: How do you figure?
A: As Cote covered in his excellent quick take, Ellison, in planning for the future, is looking to the past. Specifically, IBM’s past. “Our vision for the year of 2010 is the same as IBM’s for 1960,” as he says, meaning that you buy a single machine that has everything you want on it, preintegrated.

Will Oracle still sell you their database if you’re running on, say, Dell servers? Certainly. But will they also be telling you how much faster it runs on their integrated appliance, and how that appliance – through the magic of ZFS and storage pooling – will give you better performance at a lower cost, and real time performance analytics via DTrace? You bet.

Q: Which stated plans are those?
A: In talking to the Journal, Ellison said the following:

“We are not cutting Sun to profitability,” Mr. Ellison said. “We think that this business will be profitable immediately.”

He went on to say, however, that he would be leaving certain non-profitable lines of business:

Mr. Ellison said that Sun will add $1.5 billion to Oracle’s bottom line in the first year, largely because he will get out of “businesses that don’t make money.”

Q: Which businesses are those?
A: Exactly.

Q: Meaning we don’t know?
A: It’s certainly less than obvious. Likely candidates like NetBeans or OpenOffice.org were explicitly mentioned on yesterday’s call, which presumably wouldn’t be the case if the plan was to immediately retire them. No, the Sun Cloud and OpenSolaris were but a few of the obvious product lines that were MIA on Wednesday.

Q: What is Oracle going to do with OpenOffice?
A: Apparently continue to invest in it, and marry it to that which Ellison hates most in a product referred to as “Cloud Office.”

Q: MySQL is getting its own salesforce, though, right?
A: MySQL will maintain an independent sales and development staff, yes, though organizationally it will be grouped with Oracle’s open source GBU. You could argue that this is because MySQL’s more of a competitive threat, that it’s natural given the differing markets served by the products, or that it’s at the behest of the EU. Or all of the above. Either way, it means that MySQL – at least for now – has some room to move.

Q: Back to the operating system question for a second. When the acqusition was announced, you said the following:

The betting here is that Solaris will continue to be supported, but not as a frontline option, with the possible exception of cloud offerings where the quirks of the operating system are rendered invisible by the platform. Think IBM with AIX, HP with HP-UX, and so on: there is ample precedent for the (successful) continuation of two competing product lines, and as Oracle itself acknowledges above, there’s an awful lot of Oracle running on top of Solaris.

You further speculated that some of the Solaris assets might be candidates for relicensing. What do you think now?
A: That that view is wrong. We’ll see, of course, how things play out, but it would certainly appear that Oracle is committed to the Solaris platform indefinitely. Personally, I think that will be difficult to manage over time, but it’s pretty clear that the above guess was off. As some Sun folks were kind of enough to tell me when it was published.

If anything, Oracle advantaged Solaris vs Linux during yesterday’s presentation. When discussing them both, Solaris came first and had bullet points like Secure, Scale, and so on. Linux? It was described as the most “widely used” operating system.

I remain convinced that Oracle will have a tough time maintaining and messaging two competitive products, but given the depth of their appliance ambitions they may see that as a short term problem only.

As you can tell, in the short term there are probably going to be more questions than answers. While it seems MySQL is safe for now, how the developer community reacts to the Oracle ownership of the product remains to be seen. Will people stick with MySQL? Will Percona or MariaDB be the ones to benefit? Or will it be a completely different DB such as PostgreSQL that gains as a result.

While it’s clear that Oracle is going to kill some products, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on exactly what will survive. That uncertainty could be extremely detrimental to some projects. One of the biggest questions for me is what will become of OpenSolaris/Solaris and how that decision will impact Linux support within the company. Sun had a mixed history with Linux, but Oracle has been a big proponent recently. Will they switch gears and go with a product they have more ownership over, or will they stick with Linux which is doing much better in the marketplace.

I have quite a bit of other commentary on this topic, but I’ll attempt to break that into separate posts in the near future as more information becomes available.

Additional Reading:
* Sun & Oracle’s impact on open source acquisitions
* Best of luck to Jonathan, who is stepping down.

–jeremy

The MySQL exodus at Sun

It looks like the exodus of top MySQL execs from Sun is in full swing. Yesterday, Monty posted the following:

Time to move on
I have now departed from Sun and joined my own company, Monty Program Ab.

There were a lot of rumors around me resigning in August/September last year. I didn’t back then want to comment on the rumors, because I was still trying to work something out with Sun. Now I can finally describe a bit of what was going on.

In this case, the rumors had some elements of truth to them. I had told management that I thus would be submitting my resignation immediately as I strongly believed that the 5.1 release was not ready and that those problems needed to be fixed before it went GA. This action, together with other peoples´ efforts, did have the wanted effect and I made an agreement with Sun´s upper management to not initiate my resignation but instead stay around for three more months to help Sun work out things in MySQL Development and also give Sun a chance to create an optimal role for me within Sun.

The three months did stretch out to seven months, and the changes I had hoped Sun would apply to in the MySQL Database group to fix our development and community problems did not happen fast enough.

Sun and I concluded in the end that I have much higher chances of achieving my goals outside of Sun, so it’s just better to swallow the bitter apple, go out and get things going. We parted in good terms and we both expect to continue to do business and work together.

As you probably know, Monty is one of the two co-founders of MySQL AB. The other co-founder, David Axmark, left Sun last year. It’s often the case that founders leave the acquiring company after a little while, so neither of these came as a huge surprise to me. Today, however, we got the news that Marten Mickos is leaving Sun amid a reorg:

I just got news that Marten Mickos, former MySQL CEO, is to depart Sun amid a reorganisation of its infrastructure and database business units. Don’t expect an announcement from Sun on this, but the news is confirmed.

It seems that Sun is combining its Software Infrastructure organization with its Database Group to form a unified open source product group under the leadership of Karen Tegan Padir, vice president of MySQL & Software Infrastructure.

Marten was the long time CEO and really helped MySQL AB grow from a business perspective. Sometimes that growth came at the cost of angering the MySQL community. While founder Monty was a tech guy, Marten was a business guy. To see him leave so soon is much more of a surprise to me. Combined, these three losses are huge for Sun, and may start to raise questions not only about the future of MySQL within Sun… but about the future of Sun in general. Sun has done some very innovative things in the past, but has clearly been going through a bit of a cultural shift internally. I always saw the MySQL AB acquisition as a potential way to help spread the Open Source mantra inside a company that was a bit conflicted. It will be interesting to see how Sun moves forward from here.

–jeremy

MySQL: Now and Then… and Dual License Community Impact

Stephen O’Grady recently posted a Q&A pertaining to the past, present, and future of MySQL. There’s been quite a bit going on at MySQL and Sun lately, but I’ll focus on one issue in this post – the impact of the current MySQL dual-licensing strategy. Stephen covers much more in his post, and I will be posting some additional MySQL-related thoughts soon. From the linked post:

A: Well, let’s remember what the dual license mechanism is and how it works. Here’s a basic description I wrote a while back:

A single entity such as MySQL is responsible for the overwhelming majority of all development on a given codebase. Anything they don’t produce themselves, they license. Very often this is practiced in conjunction with the dual-license model; because MySQL is responsible for virtually all of the development of the core code, they own or have licensed appropriately all of the involved IP. As such, they’re free to issue commercial licenses to those who would cannot or choose not to comply with the terms of the open source license – the GPL, in this case.

Generally, this model has served MySQL fairly well. By controlling the intellectual property, they retain the rights to relicense the code, thus protecting a revenue stream. They also were afforded a slightly greater protection from forks versus more collaboratively developed projects like Linux, in that they – theoretically – employed the majority of the people qualified and paid to work on the codebase at the lowest levels. But let’s come back to that.

What’s the catch to the model? In part, it’s that the burden of development is born almost entirely by the MySQL staff, but the more relevant concern here is the inability to consume external contributions – even if they’re excellent – without licensing them.

Stated more simply: as long as MySQL remains committed to the dual licensing model, it will be unable to accept the same patch set that open source only versions of the code can, because they do not share the same licensing concerns. Which is why we’ve seen these spring up, and possibly why the MySQL-derived Drizzle project has taken a different approach from its parent.

For a long time, most viewed the control that MySQL AB had as a strength, at least from a business perspective. With the high quality work that is now going on outside MySQL/Sun, however, that is increasingly not the case. Percona, Proven Scaling, OurDelta, Google and others are doing some really cool things these days. The current thinking for many is that the best bang for the buck when it comes to MySQL is now outside MySQL. That’s never happened before and I think it shifts the entire MySQL landscape. The question for Sun now becomes: when will the ability to consume external contributions outweigh the perceived benefits of the dual-license strategy that inhibits the consumption of those contributions? While Drizzle may change some of this, I think it’s a question Sun is going to have to answer (for its own good) sooner… rather than later.

–jeremy

MySQL cofounder David Axmark leaving Sun

From InfoWorld:

David Axmark, a cofounder and former lead engineer for MySQL, has resigned from Sun Microsystems a few weeks after another cofounder said he may also leave the company.

“I have thought about my role at Sun and decided that I am better off in smaller organisations,” Axmark wrote in his resignation letter, according to a blog post Tuesday from Kaj Arno, head of MySQL community relations.

“I HATE all the rules that I need to follow, and I also HATE breaking them. It would be far better for me to ‘retire’ from employment and work with MySQL and Sun on a less formal basis,” Axmark wrote. His last day with Sun will be Nov. 10, Arno said via instant message from Germany.

Axmark filled several important roles at MySQL over the years, including head of engineering, head of internal IT and head of community relations.

How important was David to MySQL? As Kaj explains:

Let me recap what David has done for MySQL. David is the reason MySQL is FOSS. Without David, MySQL wouldn’t be GPL (Monty originally planned a closed-source product). David is also the reason people associate MySQL primarily with Sweden and less so with Finland, since MySQL AB was founded in Uppsala to be close to David (and our third co-founder Allan Larsson).

With David gone and rumours that Monty is leaving, it will be interesting to watch how the MySQL acquisition progresses within Sun. This is a good reminder that much of what you purchase when you buy an Open Source company is the people. Making sure the key people fit well within your organization is of utmost importance if you want to derive the maximum value out of your investment..

David next to Larry's yact
(A picture of David Axmark in his boat, next to the yacht of Larry Ellison)

–jeremy

MySQL licensing redux

A follow up to one of the more divisive announcements made at the MySQL Conference. From the 451 Group Blog:

After all the fuss it appears that MySQL will be remaining open source after all. As Kaj Arno and Monty Widenius report, Marten Mickos announced at CommunityOne that the MySQL Server will stay open source, as well as the forthcoming encryption and compression backup features, which MySQL had considered making available only to paying customers.

“The change comes from MySQL now being part of Sun Microsystems. Our initial plans were made for a company considering an IPO, but made less sense in the context of Sun, a large company with a whole family of complementary open source software and hardware products,” writes Kaj.

“My hope is that the experiment when it comes to closed source extensions developed by Sun is now ended. As far as I know, there is no existing plans for any closed source extensions to the MySQL server,” adds Monty.

While that seems pretty clear cut, there is still room for a little confusion. Kaj writes: “To financially support MySQL’s free and open source platform, we have a business model which allows both community and commercial add-ons, and we remain committed to it.”

Monty clarifies: “I interpret this, in the context of Mårten’s and Jonathan’s announcements, that we will continue to support and make available commercial addons to the MySQL server from third party, like the Infobright storage engine. Things that we develop ourselves at Sun, at least on the server, will continue to be open source.”

It was always made clear that the decision to ship closed extensions was made before the Sun acquisition. It’s good to see that Sun stepped up, listened to feedback and changed this. It may have made sense for a company looking to IPO, but it doesn’t make sense for Sun. While it’s now clear that Sun-shipped server code will now be open, they also made it clear that 3rd party commercial extensions will continue to be embraced. I see that as a good thing. The “at least on the server” qualifier does leave the door open for something on the MySQL periphery to be closed, but that’s been the case for a few years now (MySQL Monitor for instance). If you’d like to know more about the announcement, Monty has posted his opinion:

I was yesterday attending the “Open Tuesday” Sun & MySQL event. One of the first questions I got from the audience during my questions & answer session was what is my take of the recent MySQL proposition of having closed source parts/modules in the server.

I was very happy to be able to say that Mårten some hours earlier had announced on CommuntyOne that the MySQL server is and is always going to be open source.

It’s very good to see that Mårten is continuing to be responsive to the MySQL community and to the MySQL customers. Thanks to Mårten for doing the right thing! Thanks to the MySQL community for expressing their opinions!

Monty also posted a very good (and honest) assesment of the MySQL Conference here.

–jeremy

MySQL Expo – Day 2

Day 2 of the MySQL Conference and Expo is well under way. The opening keynote started with Rick Falkvinge, whose Swedish Pirate Party seems to be making quite a bit of progress since the last time I saw him speak at OSCON. The history he presented on copyright was interesting, I suggest you check it out once the slides are posted. Next up was Scaling MySQL – up or out, a panel that included participants from MySQL, Sun, Flickr, Fotolog, Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube (Google is still quite secretive about many numbers-related items it seems). Good coverage of the numbers presented (Colin was plogging, so that document should be released soon and the video should be available on YouTube as well). It was interesting to get some different perspectives from multiple larger companies that are doing things much differently in some cases.

The tracks I attended today included MySQL Sandbox, Falcon, Maria, scaling and frameworks. The different fundamental design approaches Maria and Falcon are taking, combined with the internal competition that was created by having multiple internal engines should be beneficial for everyone. MySQL 6+ looks compelling and will certainly be a step up in many ways, not only from a transactional perspective. I wanted to look into federation and partitioning further, and the talks at the conference should be the motivation I needed.

I’m actually flying out tonight, which is a shame as a couple really great talks are tomorrow. Hopefully slides will be posted, but I don’t think they’re doing audio or video for anything expect the keynotes. I thought that would be standard for all conferences by now.

–jeremy

MySQL Expo – Day 1

(As with most of my conference posts, this is a bit more stream of consciousness and a bit less proofread than is typical. Such is the result of posting during small coffee breaks.)

With the recent Sun acquisition of MySQL, I expected quite a bit out of the MySQL Conference and Expo this year. With a record setting 2,000+ attendees, it looks like I wasn’t alone. Marten kicked things off this morning (The 8:30 start was a snap back to reality after the 10:45-11 start of LRL) explaining a bit about the acquisition, including the fact that he felt Sun and MySQL AB had an “alignment of culture and vision”. Marten is always both entertaining and forthcoming, so the comment he joking made about now having a bunch of Sun PR reps and lawyers listening to what he said was quite apropos. He did not cover the recent announcement that moving forward some feature will only be available in MySQL Enterprise. I’m sure I’ll cover more on that later, but it looks like more and more companies are moving toward what is usually called the RHEL/Fedora model…and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’d be curious if this change was already in the pipeline or if it was a result of the Sun acquisition (if I had to guess, it would be on the former). Another interesting fact I picked up, is that all Sun database initiatives are now under Marten. This includes Postgresql.

Next up was Jonathan Schwartz. He has an extremely good sense of humor, especially for a CEO of such a large company. He opened with a comment like “OK, enough of this Open Source stuff”. He briefly covered some of the conspiracy theories around why Sun made the acquisition, but the real reasoning he cited looks sound to me. He commented on a recent trip to the Texas Advanced Computing Center, which among other items houses the 62,976 CPU core Ranger Sun Constellation Cluster. There is not a single piece of proprietary software in the entire stack. When Jonathan asked one of the researchers if any proprietary software remained in the supercomputing space, he couldn’t think of a single instance. As Jonathan pointed out, the Constellation Cluster (which consists of Sun hardware) didn’t come cheap. Contrary to the comment I heard at LRL, he also alluded to the fact that a GPL version of ZFS may not be far off. He also mentioned the possibility of Sun doing something in the mobile space. It’s clear mobile is going to be a hot topic for the near future. Also interesting to me, he mentioned a single Linux distribution by name. It was CentOS.

Last up in the morning was Amazon CTO Werner Vogels. He explained some of the history of Amazon, including the origin of obidos in the URL and a screenshot of the very first version of the site. He covered the technology progression that lead Amazon to release AWS and noted the absolute importance of incremental scalability. Amazon really is doing some cool stuff.

The rest of the sessions I attended have been interesting, with topics including memcached, PDO, performance and replication. “The future of MySQL” covered what we can expect out of 5.1, 6.0 and 6.x. 5.1 definitely contains some items that will be useful to LQ and the new storage engines in 6.0 (Maria and Falcon) should be beneficial to everyone. There seems to be a tacit distancing from Innodb, but that really comes as no surprise. The MySQL monitoring piece that’s part of MySQL Enterprise looks quite good. I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on it. EC2 and SOA will likely round out the rest of my sessions for the day. I think I’m off to the Exhibit Hall Reception and Mindtouch party after that. If you’ll be attending either, see you there. More to come tomorrow.

–jeremy

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