In an earlier blog, I discussed some of my concerns about Oracle buying several open source companies, and I still have those concerns along with a few others. Yesterday, Oracle acquired Sleepycat, one of the three open source companies that they had been evaluating. Sleepycat, an open source database company, is a fairly good fit for Oracle, and this acquisition by itself may be a good thing. Sleepycat is fairly small and does not have the broad mind share of other open source databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL.
My primary concern is with the acquisition of JBoss and Zend, which could drastically shift the balance of power within the open source ecosystem toward Oracle. JBoss, an open source Java application server, is within reach of the market share of BEA and IBM (the two leading players in the proprietary application server market). PHP is a cornerstone of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python) stack, and Zend is a popular commercial PHP company. In other words, these are two of the most important open source application companies (along with MySQL), and for Oracle to acquire both of them would put Oracle in a very powerful position within the open source ecosystem. Will this reduce choice or slow innovation within the open source ecosystem?
I also wonder how this might impact MySQL. Oracle has been building more open source database functionality through the acquisition of Sleepycat discussed above and an earlier acquisition of Innobase. The press release announcing the acquisition of Innobase contained a very interesting statement: “InnoDB is not a standalone database product: it is distributed as a part of the MySQL database. InnoDB’s contractual relationship with MySQL comes up for renewal next year. Oracle fully expects to negotiate an extension of that relationship.” It will be interesting to see exactly how Oracle negotiates the InnoDB renewal with MySQL. If Oracle gains control over JBoss & PHP, how will this change the dynamics of this negotiation, and what will happen if they cannot reach an agreement? We may see the open source ecosystem moving away from MySQL and toward open source Oracle databases in cases where customers are looking for greater interoperability or support from Oracle on more components of the LAMP stack. Could we be looking at a LAOP stack? It just doesn’t have the same ring.