Sun Microsystems Inc. raised eyebrows and garnered splashy headlines when it announced plans to acquire MySQL Inc. for $1 billion. But what the deal means in mobile — or just about anywhere else, for that matter — is far from clear.
A Swedish outfit with more than 400 employees in 25 countries, MySQL is the second-largest independent open source company in the world (behind Red Hat, a MySQL investor). The company’s deployments include Facebook and Google Inc.; telecom customers include China Mobile, Nokia Corp., Deutsche Telekom AG and Alcatel.
The company also scored a big win in mobile earlier this month when Virgin Mobile U.K. moved its back-end SMS database onto a MySQL-based platform. The open source system, which uses applications developed internally by Virgin Mobile, is being used to process thousands of queries each second, according to MySQL. The technology also operates CRM applications, billing and management of Virgin Mobile orders.
Critics have slammed the deal, noting Sun’s mixed — or worse — track record with acquired companies. Those failures touched mobile last year with the quiet death of SavaJe, a startup Sun had acquired only months earlier in the hopes of expanding its Java-based offerings for mobile phones.
But others believe MySQL has a bright future in wireless, pointing to open source efforts such as Google’s Android.
“Sun has deep aspirations for the mobile market, and while there are not short-term implications of their MySQL acquisition to mobile, Sun now has the potential to aggressively promote open source database technology as a platform for enterprise mobile applications,” said Fabrizio Capobianco, CEO of the open source mobile e-mail startup Funambol. If it executes correctly, Sun could find itself well-positioned to take advantage of networks that look to become more open over the next few years.
“This is becoming a hot area due to the opening up of wireless carrier networks and an onslaught of new mobile devices for the enterprise,” Capobianco said via e-mail. “This is a bold bet for Sun and as an open source advocate, it can be a win-win-win for Sun, the open source industry, and enterprises.”