What Does Sun’s MySQL Acquisition Mean For Government IT Usage?

Jason Hull — January 29, 2008 | 9 Comments | Filed in: Government, Opinion

On January 16, Sun announced the pending purchase of MySQL AB, the company which owns the MySQL database. While MySQL is quite popular among developers, it has yet to gain significant traction in the enterprise level community.

One market where this is very apparent is in the government IT sector. Oracle databases, and appurtenant products and service contracts and vendors, rule the roost. One simple metric of measuring this success is to search current and active postings on the government€™s procurement clearinghouse, FedBizOpps. A simple text search for Oracle under the Procurement Classification Code D (Information technology services, including telecommunications services) of both active and archived documents yields 814 results, while the same search for MySQL yields just 21 results.

This is mainly due to an entrenched and embedded sales force that Oracle deploys to the Beltway. The sales force implies, rightly so, a deep team that is capable of providing as-needed support for the non-power users, which describes the vast majority of government users. MySQL, on the other hand, has limited support and does not have the bench to even begin to propose to the government that it could offer the support that the government desires.

Sun, on the other hand, has both a deep sales force and a deep support bench. The Sun sales force can begin making the pitch on first day after the closing of the acquisition that, among other things:

  1. The code for MySQL is free since it is open source, so the cost is in support, rather than in the licensing for the out of the box product that is required to use Oracle. MySQL is cheaper (and probably by close to an order of magnitude) than Oracle whether paying just for support, or, even more advantageously, if the MySQL expertise is internal
  2. MySQL is more commonly known and used in the broader development community than Oracle
  3. MySQL will run more efficiently on all of those Sun machines than Oracle will
  4. Oracle has one vendor and a lot of authorized resellers. MySQL has a vastly greater potential vendor pool

In the long term, this acquisition, if executed astutely, should break the stranglehold that Oracle, and to a lesser extent, Microsoft SQL Server, have on the government market.

Jason Hull

Jason Hull manages business development and business processes for OpenSource Connections. A graduate of the United States Military Academy with an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business, Jason draws upon his extensive military and business experience to solve problems. As a tank platoon leader and a tank company executive officer during his two tours of duty in Bosnia, Jason served in multiple leadership positions in the Army. After graduate school, Jason served as a director of analysis for Capital One, managing call center forecasting, technology, and agent performance.

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9 comments on “What Does Sun’s MySQL Acquisition Mean For Government IT Usage?

  1. I had the experience of installing mysql at two government agencies during my years in DC. The furthest I was able to go was to get mysql for testing, but in both cases Oracle was the required platform for production. This was progress because we didn’t need to purchase additional licenses for Oracle and it was an advantage to developers to use a lighter database platform. In one case our embrace of mysql nearly led to the opening of the code.

    I suspect mysql has far greater penetration than the RFP pool would suggest. It sounds like the “develop on the cheap, deploy on the big iron” is still the mode in government circles.

  2. There are a lot of forces against the introduction of a platform like MySQL from a grassroots genesis. Definitely the perceived safety and security of utilizing “big iron” is a big hindrance, because no PM or contracting officer wants to be the one that answers questions about why a name brand wasn’t used, regardless of whether it works, or, as importantly, regardless that many open source platforms (MySQL, Apache, etc.) are name brands. Another hindrance is that for platforms to be used in cleared facilities, they have to be approved. The process is definitely paperwork-intensive, and it is unlikely that many, if any, people have gone through the process to shepherd MySQL through that process. Given dedicated sales force and engineer support, MySQL can use Sun’s government expertise to walk a champion through the process, which will help adoption. After all, the wonks will say, if it’s good enough for use in cleared facilities, then it must be good enough for everyone else to use. I in no way mean to infer that the climb is short and gently sloped for MySQL’s adoption in the government.

    Thanks for the comment, Duane!

  3. yeh right

    up to a point using mysql is ok for some web 2.0 where a mega screw up has no political come back.

    And developing on one db and delivering in anotehr just causes integration problems and at that late stage any problems get VERY VERY expensive to fix. You sould develop on indentical kit test on identical kit and deploy on identical kit!

    And you not going to be able to use any of the neat stuff that oracle does if you develop using a LCD like mysql

    If you are going to use a low cost db to develop and deploy on oracle atleast use Postgress as Postgress efectivly uses PL/SQL

    ““develop on the cheap, deploy on the big iron” no wonder Govenment it projects are notorious for over running on time and cost

  4. There are a lot of reasons for cost/time overruns. One of them would definitely be be using the wrong tool (or set of tools) for a given problem. In no way should anyone interpret this article to mean that I believe that Oracle is never the right answer for solving a given business problem. However, I do believe in considering as many of the right tools as possible, and opening up the suite to be considered to open source solutions (not just for databases, mind you) should yield better return on the money spent.

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