Will Oracle do open source?

With the news that Oracle is set to snap up Sun for $7.4 billion, there's one big question over the deal - what will Oracle do with Sun's open source portfolio?

Tags: Oracle Corporation
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By  Mark Sutton Published  April 20, 2009

With the news that Oracle is set to snap up Sun for $7.4 billion, there's one big question over the deal - what will Oracle do with Sun's open source portfolio?

Given that Sun has been looking for a buyer, and that the board unanimously approved the deal, its unlikely that shareholders will resist or there'll be insurmountable problems from withing. The deal most likely won't face regulatory objections, as there is little product overlap, and while there is bound to be fall out, the acquistion puts Oracle in a strong position in terms of having ownership of the full stack, and in being able to compete in next generation data centres.

Oracle has been a highly acquisitive company in the past, so its got plenty of M&A experience to guide the deal, and even thinks it can turn Sun's fortunes around. So mostly what that leaves is the focal point of Sun's strategy for the past few years - open source - namely Java, the MySQL database and OpenOffice.

For starters, Oracle wants Java, and has pledged to continue to invest in the technology. Given how crucial Java is to its middleware, it really has to continue to invest.

Then there's OpenOffice, which is heavily subsidized by Sun, in order that it can use the technology in its own Star Office desktop suite. Oracle doesn't really do free - in fact, it really, really doesn't do free, and I can't see this support ongoing. The deal is more around the server stack, and I'm not sure that Larry Ellison really wants a free desktop package.

And of course - MySQL - the open source database. Touted by Sun as its way into tens of thousands of organizations worldwide that have already deployed the database, its a big, popular, free alternative to Oracle's own core database lines.

Sun paid $1 billion for MySQL a little over a year ago. MySQL has an active user base, and powers a lot of high profile internet business. It's a big stake to throw away or to throw back into the open source pond, but its hard to see how open source fits with Oracle's approach to paying for software. Any mention of MySQL was noticeably missing from today's announcement. It's possible that another open source advocate like IBM might be persuaded to buy MySQL, but Sun hasn't really proved that it could monetize the market so far. Whatever the future of MySQL, it seems unlikely it will darken Oracle's door.

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