A closely-watched aspect of Oracle's business acquisitions involves its ownership of MySQL, an open source relational database extremely popular among Web-based applications, including many in the library realm. Sun Microsystems acquired the database platform from MySQL AB in January 2008 for around $1 billion. Its January 2010 acquisition of Sun Microsystems brought MySQL into the Oracle fold. The ownership of the dominant open source relational database engine by a company whose flagship product is a proprietary database technology has caused some concern in the library world.
The Koha integrated library system, for example, depends on MySQL, as do many other commercially developed products and in-house projects. Many libraries have developed applications based on the ever popular Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, or LAMP, stack of components. Any change that resulted in MySQL not being freely available would cause a major disruption to libraries. To date, this ownership scenario has not been detrimental in any major way to MySQL. While Oracle does offer commercially supported versions of the product, called the Enterprise Editions, that involve annual fees, they have continued to offer a community version available without cost. Oracle has issued statements regarding its commitments regarding how it will continue to offer MySQL for free without support and has continued to enhance both the commercial and free versions of MySQL. In September 2011, Oracle announced a set of new commercial extensions that would be available only to commercial subscribers (See http://blogs.oracle.com/MySQL/entry/ new_commercial_extensions_for_mysql). Prior to these extensions, the same software has been available to those that do not pay for commercial support subscriptions. We can anticipate wider differentiation over time with options and features offered specifically to paid subscribers, typically larger-scale mission-critical implementations.
For now, it seems that libraries can count on ongoing free access to MySQL. Some libraries may depend on MySQL in ways where the option to purchase commercial support will be a benefit. While many organizations have switched to other database platforms out of concern that Oracle might eventually make access to MySQL more restrictive, MySQL continues to flourish. One strategy that offers some insurance against such changes would involve evolving applications toward a more databaseindependent architecture, using connectivity layers that support the possibility of substituting any of the major infrastructure components that comprise a Web-based application.