I've been thinking about this for the last day or so and have come to the conclusion that Oracle's acquisition of Sleepycat Software (and Berkeley DB) is not about MySQL. Even when combined with their previous purchase of Innobase Oy (and InnoDB), it's not about MySQL.

With all due respect to Phil Windley (and Gadgetopia), you're wrong. Oracle is thinking much bigger and more strategically than "put the squeeze on MySQL."

Trying to put MySQL out of business would be a fairly short-term tactical move. I think Oracle is looking 5 years down the road and seeing what the world looks like as the commoditization of enterprise scale infrastructure software components continues. They're seeing that they "own" a progressively smaller piece of that pie unless they act soon. The rumors of Oracle eyeing JBoss and others are completely in line with this thinking.

If Oracle can become a one-stop shop for folks building the next generation of big business applications, whether or not they use "traditional" Oracle software, the company manages to stay relevant in the new world--and that includes their lucrative consulting services.

Is this reminiscent of IBM's approach to Linux circa 2001? It sure is.

Think bigger guys. Oracle's not just a database company and hasn't been for years.

Now, they could still end up putting the squeeze on MySQL along the way. But I suspect that'd be a happy byproduct of larger moves they're making.

What do you think?

Posted by jzawodn at February 15, 2006 07:22 AM

Reader Comments
# Joseph Scott said:

I suspect that both points of view are correct. InnoDB and BDB are two techonologies that support MySQL (although InnoDB was obviously the more popular of the two for MySQL use), so to ignore the impact of having these two companies sold to the likes of Oracle would be like ignoring the on coming traffic while standing in the middle of the road.

That said, I think that your comparing of Oracle to what Yahoo has been doing is also right. Oracle realizes that things are changing fast, and now is the time to make sure that they have their fingers in as many pies as possible. Doing this early, rather than later, makes it easier to spread out.

on February 15, 2006 08:13 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

The BDB/MySQL thing is a non-issue. There are so few people using BDB tables in MySQL that it can't possibly be a factor.


on February 15, 2006 08:16 AM
# grumpY! said:

oracle is chasing memes like they always have. larry has dumped millions over the years into cheap terminals, linux, corba, java, you name it, mostly to no avail. i can't fault him for trying though, his core business is flattening and there are very few viable revenue streams in enterprise software left for him to buy in order to keep earnings trending upward.

once again, these acquisitions will be swallowed up into the bureaucracy of the large org and i suspect within 18 months the key employees will move on.

mysql need not be worried, their business has a lot of growth left in it, moving upwards into bigger databases as the code matures and features are added. oracle on the other hand will continue to flatten and see their markets shrink as they like the other old-school enterprise softweare vendors try to figure out how to compete against free.

on February 15, 2006 08:26 AM
# Jarrett said:

The large problem with that train of thought is that Ellison hates Gerstner's IBM, and despises best of breed.

On the surface MySQL pressures MSSQL licensing revenue, and to a lesser extent Oracle licensing revenue. The move gets more complex the more you look at it. I suspect in negotations with MySQL AB, some leveraged shots will be taken in SAP's direction. I would definitely expect improved support for MySQL in their migration tools.

Oracle will become the warm fuzzy blanket, in some kind of PR blitz. The low hanging advertising fruit is there. I'm sure the message will be a massaged:

"You started with two employees, in a garage. Now you have hundreds. Sixteen different accounting, payroll, human resource systems cobbled together in a half dozen programming languages, three operating systems, with data spread across dozens of different databases all written because you couldn't afford anything different. Now you can. Check out Oracle 10g blah blah blah"

Read Softwar, unlike Gates' book, that thing is the roadmap for Oracle.

on February 15, 2006 08:55 AM
# Kayra Otaner said:

I believe this move(s) is more towards Microsoft and Google then MySQL. I've heard that they're buying Jboss and also seriously considering buying Zend. With couple of additional buys like the ones already did, they'll be creating a commercially supported application platform (Oracle LAMP?) for small and medium businesess. SMB market is getting bigger and bigger very fast while already big enterprises are gradually sizing their deployment. Last years MS's biggest move was towards this market and I believe Oracle has also eye on this.

on February 15, 2006 09:07 AM
# David Hedrick Skarjune said:

Here in Minneapolis, Target employees just moved into the old Retek offices downtown, while some 300 Retek (oops, I mean Oracle) employees moved into some cheaper digs. You may remember that Oracle acquired Retek in March 2005 for about $650 million in a bidding war with SAP. Retek had emerged quickly as a leader with powerful inventory management software for big chain stores using innovative approaches including agile methodology.

Now that Retek's retail back-end solutions have been incorporated into the Oracle Retail Solutions, the Retek buzz has no doubt dropped to a hmmm--no matter, since Oracle has what it needed: more retail stack on top of the DB platform.

So, yes, Oracle is acquiring components and building stack. Interestingly, this also reveals a little tension between the U.S. and European approach to these things, and one has to wonder how Larry feels about the MySQL AB/SAP connection.

on February 15, 2006 09:12 AM
# grumpY! said:

>> they'll be creating a commercially supported application
>> platform (Oracle LAMP?) for small and medium businesess

or they'll realize that the php market may be wide but not very deep (revenue wise) and end up defunding zend and hence destabilizing php support for the entire community. they're already marketing a java stack, and if they bring in jboss, it will be impossible for them to differentiate between their own java tools, the jboss tools, and php/zend. it will be a complete mess and something will get defunded.

i think you folks are being far too charitable to oracle, i see no "strategy" here and moves like this in the past have neither redefined oracle nor significantly altered the company's revenue stream. customers using tools they have recently acquired don't seem to be overwhelmed by the level of support they are getting from oracle. this company is in caca, acquisitions will not change that.

on February 15, 2006 09:18 AM
# jim winstead said:

zend does not have the same relationship to php that sleepycat has to bdb. while oracle buying and defunding zend (which seems very unlikely) would not be a tremendous positive for the php project, it is still the case that the majority of the active php developers aren't on the zend payroll, and it would likely be no more than a hiccup.

on February 15, 2006 09:30 AM
# Lukas said:

I think its all about getting at SAP through MySQL AB:

on February 15, 2006 10:08 AM
# Philip Tellis said:


BTW, didn't too many people know your first name?

on February 15, 2006 11:21 AM
# Kashif Aziz said:

It's survival of the fittest. In the end only few big fish will be alive.

on February 15, 2006 12:11 PM
# Roland Bouman said:

To say "

Oracle is thinking much bigger and more strategically than "put the squeeze on MySQL."

" seems a very sensible point of view. Bit then again, when you download and install OracleXE, you get to fill in a survey asking you (among others) the question what (non-oracle) rdbms-es you are using now. You get to pick one out of three alternatives: "MS SQL", "MySQL" and ...."Other". So, "putting the squeeze on MySQL" could be just one of many parts of their idea of thinking big.


the company manages to stay relevant in the new world--and that includes their lucrative consulting services.

Well, where I come from, Oracle Consulting is mostly about the Oracle RDBMS and getting it to work together with middleware or derived products such as Warehouse Builder, BPEL Process manager etc. Something that's bound to dry up once people won't use their database.

on February 15, 2006 12:58 PM
# Jeff Nolan said:

I don't think it's about MySQL, we (SAP) have been doing some thinking on this:

"This is the thing that worries me about the acquisitions that Oracle is making in open source software, what if they came to the conclusion that they would never overtake SAP in license revenues and that the only way they could beat us was by not fighting our war but changing it. If that’s the case, maybe what Ellison’s crew is doing is buying their own LAMP stack and replacing the “M” with “O” and bundling in Fusion middleware with it? That would be a game changer and definitely not fighting yesterday’s war. In a recent Credit Suisse conference interview, Ellison spent a great deal of time talking about subscription revenue and open source, which makes me believe he may have come to the conclusion that the only way he can beat SAP in the application business is to do something he believes we won’t be willing to do, namely take away the license component of our economic model."

on February 15, 2006 01:09 PM
# James Day said:

Lukas, BDB isn't that important to MySQL and it's very unlikely that it was a factor for SAP, in part because they just participated in a financing round for MySQL while rumors of this deal were floating around.

As Jeremy implies, look to Web apps and Oracle buying more items to compete with .NET on the application infrastucture side of things.

on February 15, 2006 01:10 PM
# Alex said:

My guess is they're buying open-source databases for the same reason The Big Three started buying up streetcar companies in the first half of the 20th century. They're seeing too many people paying a little bit as they go for a shared resource, whereas there's a lot more profit to be made if each person has to shell out a big lump sum for their own private resource. Buy and dismantle the shared resource, and people will shell out for the expensive private resource, because you can't run a web application without a database any more than you can commute ten miles to work on foot.

on February 15, 2006 01:41 PM
# Christof said:

Jeremy, you write that Oracle is not a database company. This is true, but...

If you look at their financials, databases are their cash cow. They practically loose money on the rest, including applications. Only the RDBMS cash-cow has given Oracle the cash to buy all the Peoplesofts, Siebels, Reteks as well as the imminent JBoss and Zend acquisitions (if they don't fail over price).

Now, MySQL is moving heavily upmarket into the enterprise RDBMS and therefore decreases margins at Oracle's cash cow. This pinch must be felt at Oracle. Therefore, I believe the Sleepycat acquisition is as targeted at MySQL as the Innobase one was.

I also agree, that there's a bigger picture, into which the JBoss and Zend acquisitions would fall.

More on my MySQL research and my thoughts here:


on February 15, 2006 04:00 PM
# Vaibhav Domkundwar - iNods.com said:

Jeremy, I just can't agree with this analysis. It may be true in a certain way, but the last statement is wrong. (I posted on this on my blog as well:

It should be more like - "Oracle's is still a database company, though for years, they have tried to be (much) more than that."

Oracle spent years and millions in becoming an applications company, but other than Oracle Financials, they could not gather traction elsewhere and eventually just acquired PeopleSoft and Seibel and others.

Oracle is still making more money from their database business than any other business. No? If they were to push a model of - "build the next generation of big business applications, whether or not they use "traditional" Oracle software" - they would seriously hurt there core business. In addition to this, LAMP is way ahead in terms of evolution towards this destination and it might be tough for Oracle to win the race.

Having said that I agree that this is a good move for Oracle to get their hands in this pie and compete but I feel they will walk a thin line and will ensure that they do not cannibalize their core business.

on February 15, 2006 04:20 PM
# David Glazer said:

I agree with Jeremy that it's bigger than MySQL, and with Jeff that it's about game-changing.

I think many forces are applying downward pressure on enterprise SW license fees (including open source, SaaS, and new offerings from consumer-centric players). If/when those license revenue streams start to shrink, vendors need to build up alternative maintenance/support revenue streams. However, they don't want to accelerate the license shrinkage by cannibalizing.

In that light, adding some Open Source brands is a great way to capture support revenue from new customers, preserve support revenue from existing customers who might have left you entirely otherwise, and continue to get license revenue from your existing brands for as long as possible.

on February 15, 2006 04:37 PM
# Cameron Smith said:

I agree with the various comments of grumpY!, Roland Bouman and Vaibhav. I think this is NOT about MySQL, but I do not think that Oracle's strategy about what it IS is coherent.

1. Wherever I have worked, like Roland, the shop has used Oracle for the DB, but the rest has been a few products on top. On my current project, we have licenses for many other parts of the Oracle stack, but have ended up using none of them - the skillset isn't there, the tools are 'so-so' and they are poorly integrated. The only part of the stack we use is OC4J, but only after heavy tweaking and throwing out some of its rubbish bits. We are still considering moving to JBoss (regardless of the acquisition) just because OC4J has got some really surprising holes.

2. My overall experience of Oracle (which I have been using commercially for 7 years now) is that EVEN THE DB has a poorly integrated toolset. Naming, CLI syntax, configuration of each different tool is subtly and annoying different and non-obvious. And the rest of the stack? Forget it. Just because it has an Oracle logo means nothing, it may as well be a separate product. Only the consultants who know about it tend come dearer than MySQL or MS SQL consultants.
From 7 through 8, 8i and 9i I have seen precious little evidence that Oracle take this seriously - when they make an acquisition, they sell it to CTOs but do not think of the people who do the grunt work and run their tools dozens of times a day. Haven't tried 10g yet!

3. In comparison, MySQL (which I have used commercially for almost as long) is a breeze - what it does it does, with a consistent, clear toolset. The one exception I can recall was the terrible Ref. Integrity support in 4.0, which was cleared up by 4.1. Easier and cheaper (in person-hours) to install, train and maintain.

4. Therefore for any SME, there is almost no contest at the DB level, since about MySQL 4.1. IF the Oracle stack WERE truly integrated, then they WOULD have a fighting chance at the medium-size enterprise (100s of employees). They could sell the "less headaches in the future" idea. But for the moment, MySQL is cheaper in both HR and licensing terms.

on February 16, 2006 04:44 AM
# Chris said:
on February 16, 2006 08:25 AM
# Kayra Otaner said:

Have you guys heard this?
Oracle tried to buy open-source MySQL

on February 16, 2006 08:30 AM
# Mike said:

I live Oracle 24x7. Believe me, Oracle IS a database company.

on February 16, 2006 01:56 PM
# Jared Evans said:

Who cares about MySQL? PostgreSQL will overtake them all in the end. Even Sun recently used the "threat" of PostgreSQL to rein in the cost of Oracle licenses on Sun hardware.

Check out:


on February 17, 2006 08:35 AM
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