MySQL Takes Database Reins from SAP

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 “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 “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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