Despite being owners of one of the most influential IT technologies Java, Sun Microsystems was struggling financially. Losses were declared at the end of most fiscal quarters. It was soon evident that Sun was not going to survive on her own. The question was really not whether an acquisition was going to happen but rather when it was going to take place happen and who was going to acquire her. Early 2009, news of an IBM-Sun merger began to emerge. Around April in the same year, IBM was said to have backed out of the acquisition. In the same month, it was announced that an agreement has been signed with with database software goliath, Oracle Corporation. There was real trepidation within the open source community and users of MySQL in the wake of this news.
The prevailing cause of concern is that Oracle would 'kill off' MySQL in order to further strengthen its own position as the leading database software provider. This concern, of course was not unfounded. Indeed there was a strong possibility that Oracle will do one or more of the following to the open source DBMS.
- Make all or parts of it closed source and withdraw the current license, the GPL (General Public Licence) from subsequent realeases.
- Integrate it with the existing suite of Oracle database products so that it becomes dependent on the Oracle platform
- Raise licensing fees for the Enterprise Edition
- Focus on improving the Enterprise Edition and more or less abandon the free open source community version.
- Simply abandon the project altogether
After having talks with the EC, Oracle had to guarantee that MySQL would continue to be free, open-source, actively developed and maintained for the next five years. The good thing about the EC's intervention is that it has bought a lot of time for users of MySQL. Five years is enough time for users to find alternatives to MySQL and port their existing solutions to those if they wish. More importantly five years is enough time for open source alternative DBMS's including forks of MySQL that have been created to fully mature and gain sufficient recognition. In effect, EC effectively made sure that no one will suffer from Oracle's acquisition. This is an exemplary case of a government actually looking out for the interest of its people which ironically, is a big deal in these times.
In a nutshell, the future of MySQL is secured for the next few years and as for open source database development, it is secure even beyond that and hopefully no one really looses at the end of the day.
̉The deal was finally concluded in February 2010 and Sun Microsystems was promptly renamed to Oracle America, Inc. and MySQL along with a host of other Sun products officially became Oracle's but still, users of MySQL can sleep at night knowing that the future is not entirely bleak.