Just when it began to look like BEA might take itself private, the company gave into the mounting pressure and became the latest Oracle acquisition. A few months ago I wrote about my thoughts on the potential acquisition. While on the surface it might appear that Oracle is going after the customer base, I think that the move is more significant in terms of the software assets including middleware and business process management software. An interesting and little discussed asset is the high end Tuxedo transaction monitoring software developed by Bell Labs in the 1980s and commercialized by AT&T Unix Systems Labs, then owned by Novell and finally sold as part of the formation of BEA.
So, I think that Oracle did the right thing in acquiring BEA to fill in its middleware stack. However, the real question remains: how will Oracle be able to rationalize all of the middleware components to create a platform. For example, I predict that it will take years for BEA to have a Fusion middleware stack that incorporates BEA’s value. The same issue will persist for business process software. The assets from various acquisitions will have to be sorted out. I thought that James Governor made some interesting observations in his recent blog on Oracle. Josh Greenbaum, as usual has some interesting thoughts about Oracle’s approach to the market…At least where Oracle is concerned, we won’t be bored.
Now, about Sun Microsystems. I have to say that the acquisition of MySQL left me scratching my head. Sun seems to have taken on the mantle of the place where software goes to die. Can you spell Forte (a development environment with $80 million in revenue that Sun acquired for $450 million — what a deal!)? How about other notable acquisitions like NetDynamics, and Netscape Application Server? There are others, of course, but I can’t remember their names anymore. Even with the Java franchise Sun hasn’t figured out how to make money on software.
So, what about MySQL which Sun payed $1 billion dollars for? Jonathan Swartz in his blog makes a case that Sun can win in the market though a focus on open source software. While commercial support of open source is important for customers I suspect that it won’t really help Sun’s revenue climb. Clearly, one of the reasons that MySQL has been successful is that it works and is open source — I can’t figure out how Sun will leverage this asset to build a successful commercial business.