MySQL, much beloved among the Open Source community, has recently been acquired by Sun Microsystems for the small pittance of (insert picture of Dr. Evil here) one billion dollars in cash and stock options. How this will affect end users, and open source in general, is still up in the air, but understanding a little bit about the history of open source and the two businesses should help to give us a clearer picture of what is really at stake.
MySQL AB was founded in 1995 by Michael Widenius, David Axmark, and Allan Larsson. The company created the relational database management system MySQL. It employs roughly 400 people from twenty-five countries, seventy percent of whom work from home. Since being founded, the company reports over 5 million MySQL installations and 10 million overall product downloads (as of 2004).
Even though MySQL is an open source database, MySQL earns revenue by offering a dual license: one open source, the other more traditional, such as when companies want the code to be included in a project they created that they do not wish to offer as open source. They also earn money by offering support, consultation, training, certification, and subscriptions to their MySQL Enterprise.
MySQL is arguably the world's most popular open source database. It is "a genuine nuisance to Oracle," according to John Dvorak. What can we expect to happen to it now that it's in Sun's clutches?