Martin MC Brown

Oracle, BDB and future prediction

By Martin MC Brown
February 15, 2006 5:25 AM EST
Unless you missed it, Oracle bought Sleepycat software.

There are many conspiracy theories about Oracle's motive. On the one hand, we have a big, commercial database company who is buying up companies that provide open source technology (they bought InnoBase last year).

On the other hand, we have MySQL, a company that has been using the InnoBase and Berkeley DB (Sleepycat's product).

There are a couple of impressions you could glean from the purchase.

First of all, Oracle could just be buying the cream of the open source technology so that they could get their foot into the FOSS door. They could be looking at companies like Sun and IBM who have embraced open source tech and see the purchase of existing, leading open source technology as a way to show they are FOSS friendly.

Alternatively, they could just be looking to invest in technology that can easily be embedded into other applications. Oracle software is not exactly small and portable, but that seems to be the direction that software is going as more and more small commercial devices (PVRs, handhelds etc) are going. That's a big market that a company like Oracle would probably want to invest in. Rather than adjust their existing technology, just buy the market leading alternative. There aren't many easily embeddable database technologies that aren't already owned or operated elsewhere.

The last and, because of the MySQL link, most sinister is that Oracle is trying to take away the transactional database functionality (a key element of MySQL moving into the enterprise, and muscling in on Oracle's space). Buying the companies that provide the technology that MySQL uses is potentially a good way to remove functionality by a back door.

The last item is a possibility, but if true, it would alienate vast quantities of the users that Oracle might otherwise gain over time, and would certainly cause a lot of ill feeling in the open source, and areas of the commercial spaces.

MySQL, I'm sure, are not standing still. There are rumours that they are already developing their own transactional database engine (I've written about the different storage engines if you are interested). Adding transaction support would be a logical next step for MySQL, who have already developed a number of different engines, including making the migration from the original ISAM to MyISAM.