Sun Microsystems and Commercial software: postscript

January 21, 2008

Sun Microsystems and Commercial software: postscript

I have had several comments on my posting about Sun and its acquisition of MySQL. While it is nice that Sun has a software strategy, I would like to point out an important fact — Sun Microsystems is a public company. As a public company, Sun’s management has a responsibility to its shareholders to make a profit. My key question is how will Sun make money from open source? Many of the customers who use MySQL use it because it works well and, most importantly, it is open source and free. While some of these customers will buy a maintenance license, many who have deep technical expertise will not need the help and will not spend the money. Is it possible that Sun will turn MySQL into the equivalent of a $1 Billion plus company? I am skeptical.

I do want to add that I think that open source software is extremely important. There are two primary reasons: open source allows the best minds in software to collaborate to create great innovation; and open source provides customers with the access to that innovation without having to make hard financial decisions at the start. However, with risk comes responsibility. Not all open source software is the responsibility — from both vendors to provide consistency, reliability, and innovation and from customers who need to pick open source software that will stand the test of time.

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About Judith Hurwitz

Judith Hurwitz is an author, speaker and business technology consultant with decades of experience.

One Comment
  1. I am skeptical of Sun’s purchase of MySQL for more basic reasons.

    All the platitudes about OSS bringing independent developers together is lovely, but the business model is that revenue come from services, not licensing software.

    It’s hard to tell, but let’s say MySQL has revenues of $60M. How does Sun offer better revenue generation than MySQL has now? How do they ever get an ROI on $1B?

    Really, the best way to monetize OSS is to find some sucker to buy your company.

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