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Editor's Note: MySQL--The Next Big Bargain?

Jul 23, 2004, 23:30 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

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By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

What I want to know is--who's going to buy MySQL?

Now, this is not to say that I think MySQL is some sort of weakened, prey-like mode that means that it's just begging to be snapped up. No, this is me armchair-quarterbacking the potential for a really solid company to get snapped up by another, bigger, company because what they make is really, really good.

Word of warning--I am not as smart about this is Melanie Hollands, so take my speculations with a huge (like the size of Lot's wife) grain of salt. Case in point: if I were consistently good at this, I'd be living in Fiji.

'Way back in January, I held forth a prediction that Red Hat, in a move to position itself against the then two-month old Novell/SUSE acquisition, would try to buy MySQL. My theory was that Novell/SUSE would be the networking-Linux combination and Red Hat/MySQL would be the database-Linux powerhouse. Actually, I think this theory could still work: if Red Hat acquires MySQL, it would be a nice addition to its product line.

Now, however, there is talk that Novell should take in the Swedish database company. This seems like a better fit, since a MySQL-like database would fit nicely into the Star/OpenOffice suite. (This is not my idea, by the way, it was put forth in a recent article on The Register.)

On first glance, it seems a very viable proposition, though I wonder if Novell will have the wherewithall to buy MySQL so soon after it's Ximian and SUSE buys.

Of the two, Red Hat still has a slight lead in my mind on getting a hold of MySQL, if they want it. They have more money, and I wonder if they are a bit tired of being overshadowed by the Novell limelight. Not to mention Oracle, which just churns out publicity like you would not believe. A MySQL acquisition would certainly shake things up.

Red Hat's partnership with Oracle itself may actually but a damper on this deal. If Red Hat were suddenly to become partly a database company, it is doubtful that Oracle would keep its partnership (with its sales channels) with Red Hat for very long.

(And, in case you've jumped the same synapse I have, I have briefly wondered if Oracle might like to swallow MySQL up. But I figure the current antitrust investigations aimed at them will keep such Borg-like maneuvers in check for a while.)

Granted, none of this rampant speculation is going to be worth the screen its printed on if MySQL declines to be bought. I have definitely not heard any indications from them that hints they are for sale. There is always the big reason why any company would want to merge with another: access to the other company's customer base, but that is true for all companies, not just MySQL.

MySQL is a company that wants to be better understood. They have run into some sharp opposition from the vocal side of the open source community regarding their dual licensing practices, and aligning themselves with a bigger open source player will go a long way towards settling that commontion down.

Mergers and acquisitions are not necessary for any company to be successful, and MySQL's product lines and partnerships with companies like SAP are certainly indicators that this firm can do well enough on it own. It's very success, though, may make it all that much more appealing for others.