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Should we expect more db acquisitions?

Posted by joconner on February 24, 2008 at 8:10 PM PST

Last month Sun announced it had acquired MySQL, which may very well be the most influential and widespread open source database in the world. Aside from a few announcements, there wasn't nearly as much comment on this as I expected.

Here are the databases that I see being supported at Sun:

  • HSQLDB in Open Office
  • Apache Derby
  • MySQL

HSQLDB? You would agree that Sun is the largest supporter of Open Office, right? I mean even though OO is open source, that doesn't mean it doesn't have huge corporate sponsorship. And that huge corporate sponsor is Sun, which donates time, material, money, employees, and advertisiing to Open Office. Open Office has adopted HSQLDB as its internal database. Surely HSQLDB's project gets support from Sun too. After all, it is an integral and important part of the Open Office suite.And its a 100% Java implementation. Maybe this isn't an expensive investment compared to MySQL...but why bother with HSQLDB, especially when you have this next db?

Apache Derby. Sun's branding calls this Java DB, but underneath, it's still Apache Derby. Derby is the 100% Java database that supposedly can scale from embedded applications to larger, departmental, transactional apps too. Impressive for sure, but certainly duplicated by the HSQLDB product's abilities, no? Regardless of the overlap in abilities, these are two different products with different supporters and communities. Still, that's another db, and more money, time, and resources from Sun.

Then we have the heavier hitter, MySQL. And this is by far the biggest ticket item. What was the price? $1 billion? I put this db in a different league from HSQLDB and Derby. 100% Java? Not at all. However, it does have more enterprise credentials than either of the other databases. It's probably not fair to even put the others in the same arena as MySQL.

As I dig around, I see that Oracle purchased Innobase, the company that provides InnoDB within MySQL, a couple years ago. So, Oracle owns InnoDB, and Sun owns MySQL. Interesting, but what's that mean about InnoDB within MySQL now?

I see Sun developing more and more interest in database technologies, from small systems like HSQLDB and Java DB to the larger MySQL. It's a pattern, and I wonder what it means. Can we expect Sun to actively support and even purchase more db technologies? What might those be?

With limited time resources, I can't work on all the things I'd like to. I can't read all the books I would like to. I can't give to all the charities that deserve my attention -- or money. I think companies have similar constraints on their resources, money, employees, etc. As far as I can tell, Sun has now made committments to at least three different database systems. Which one will prevail at Sun, and which will get the resources to maintain itself?

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Sun also supports PostgreSQL, and the good news about the BSD-licensed PostgreSQL is that it does not belong to a company and therefor cannot be acquired by anybody. It also has a much more sophisticated feature set than MySQL and is rightfully subtitled "the world's most advanced open source database" and nowadays it seems to even out-perform MySQL in almost all cases. However, MySQL still is the most popular choice, mostly because it does not have PostgreSQL's complexity. Both are very well documented and excellent products. The InnoDB issue has been addressed by MySQL AB long before the deal with Sun. They are developing the "Falcon" engine, which ultimately is supposed to replace InnoDB.

i think H2 is the "new" HSQLDB.

H2 does look tremendously exciting eg. the performance stats he posts on I suspect the design and code is very clean and optimal given that the author has developed java databases before - pointbase and hsqldb i understand. One's third from-scratch "rewrite" is usually getting fairly close to optimal compared to one's first two attempts...