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MySQL Takes Database Reins from SAP

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MySQL AB Tuesday said it has inked a technology and cross-licensing partnership with SAP AG’s database project in a play that can potentially catapult MySQL into the enterprise limelight. MySQL will take commercial ownership of SAP’s SAP DB and become a global technology partner of SAP AG.The deal, for which financial terms were not made public, should make MySQL’s products more attractive to large and medium-sized businesses. Sweden’s MySQL will rename SAP DB and will offer it under the free software/open source GNU General Public License (GPL), which means the source code be available at no cost for anyone to read, review, enhance and redistribute.

MySQL will also offer a commercial license for SAP DB aimed at companies that do not want to make their products open source-compliant, such as those that plan to resell the database. MySQL and SAP will also work together to build the MySQL open source enterprise database based on MySQL and SAP DB.

Though gaining traction in the business world, open-source database products from firms such as MySQL and PostGreSql Inc. have been slow to build trust among the enterprise for concerns about the viability of such businesses, which are looking for customers that would otherwise go to database powers such as Oracle, IBM and Microsoft. Open source database purveyors such as MySQL do count such customers as Yahoo!, Google and Cox Communications, but SAP’s embrace of MySQL as a global technology partner is a ringing endorsement, analysts said.

“The partnership between SAP and MySQL will put one of the largest open source communities and one of the world’s largest software companies firmly behind the development of a free open source database for large commercial applications,” said Bill Claybrook, Research Director, Linux and Open Source, Aberdeen Group. “This validates the potential for open source software to extend beyond the operating system level to power business-critical database applications.”

“This deal has three main benefits for MySQL,” MySQL Chief Executive Officer Marten Mickos said. “First, this is a formal endorsement by SAP for MySQL. Even though we have had 4 million installations, the fact that a conservative company is betting on us is significant. Second, this makes MySQL a one-stop shop for database management systems. And finally, we will have access to their labs and experts to speed up the development of MySQL.”

Mickos said his firm has no illusions about trying to compete with the “Big Three” of Microsoft, Oracle and IBM. Instead, he sees MySQL as a commodity database aimed at certain businesses the don’t require software loaded with complex features.

“We have different priorities,” Mickos told internetnews.com. “We are not selling a single database standard with extensive features. This is not David versus three Goliaths.”

Gartner analyst Kevin Strange agrees with that assessment. However, he doesn’t believe MySQL has the feature-rich punch to accomodate enterprise applications at this point in time.

“This is not so much about MySQL taking over SAP’s database,” Strange told internetnews.com. “It’s more about SAP continuing to have an anti-Oracle stance, and IBM’s DB2 to some extent. It keeps SAP out of their competitive hairs for them.”

Strange even suggested SAP’s support of MySQL may not be a surefire scenario. “It’s a risky proposition. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” although he did say Oracle could feel pressure from open-source databases in the long run.

Why does Mickos think the time is ripe for MySQL in the enterprise sector? Mickos said he sees open-source databases echoing the success of Linux, which he said has proven to be enterprise-ready. “SAP wouldn’t partner with us unless companies were saying okay to open source.”

The news also broadens MySQL’s appeal to larger market segments. Traditionally serving the low end of the market with its high-performance, stability and convenience, MySQL will now have SAP’s DB, which is considered one of the more functionally rich databases in existence. It supports thousands of simultaneous users, high volumes of data, and distributed infrastructures, making it attractive to larger enterprises. To transfer some of those characteristics to MySQL’s products, MySQL AB and SAP will work together to create seamless interoperability between the MySQL database and SAP DB.

In time, MySQL AB will offer three database products: MySQL Classic, designed for Web sites, logging and embedded use, where extremely fast read and write access and low overhead are key; MySQL Pro, which adds high performance database transaction support; and the renamed SAP DB, MySQL’s SAP-certified database for large SAP R/3 environments and other applications that require enterprise-grade functionality.

“Partnering with SAP AG will accelerate the evolution of MySQL to a full-featured enterprise solution capable of supporting any application,” said Michael (Monty) Widenius, MySQL AB CTO and co-founder.

Tuesday’s agreement does not mean Germany’s SAP is folding its database business entirely — it will still support database-centric technologies. It just does not wish to sell databases any longer, said Mickos. In fact, both MySQL AB and SAP AG will offer this future enterprise-ready MySQL database to their customers.

MySQL AB will offer SAP DB under a new name by the fourth quarter 2003. SAP DB will be available from MySQL under the free software/open source GPL license and also a non-GPL commercial license. SAP will provide product support for SAP DB, with support evolving into a tiered approach between MySQL and SAP. MySQL and SAP will jointly support SAP DB commercial licenses sold by MySQL.

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