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Oracle Acquires Sleepycat 403

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the everyone-getting-a-piece-of-open-source dept.
Deven writes "Computerworld is reporting that Oracle has just acquired Sleepycat Software (makers of the open-source Berkeley DB embedded database) for an undisclosed sum. Having previously acquired Innobase, Oracle is certainly taking a look at diversity."
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Oracle Acquires Sleepycat

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  • by spectre_240sx (720999) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @08:39PM (#14721307) Homepage
    God Damnit
  • Interesting .... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @08:41PM (#14721331) Homepage
    .. o O o ..

    Can Oracle's acquisitions be predicted based upon the database backends used with MySQL? What other backends work with MySQL?
    • At present there are more than twenty storage engines for MySQL, though most aren't distributed by MySQL itself. Quite a few significant users of MySQL have their own engines for special purposes as well.
      • Re:Interesting .... (Score:5, Informative)

        by jadavis (473492) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @10:48PM (#14721981)
        How many of those engines are distributed under a free license and have transactional support? Looks like both are owned by Oracle now. Oracle did that for a reason, and it's not because they like to collect database companies.

        Many users of MySQL depend on one or more of:
        (1) the ability to license MySQL commercially with one of those engines cheaply
        (2) the continued development of those storage engines
        (3) the continued development of MySQL

        Oracle can now stronly influence all of those things. #1 they can just raise the price or not license. #2 they can just lay off all the developers. Good luck getting an open sources devel team together before it's too late. #3, they can just refuse to license those backends, thereby preventing #1, which is also MySQL's source of revenue, leading indirectly to exactly the same case as #2.
  • Why do this? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BigZaphod (12942) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @08:42PM (#14721337) Homepage
    Why buy up all these other database alternatives? The only good reason I can think of is that they are trying to cover all ranges of database needs. I guess that makes sense, but are they going to combine all of these products into one interoperable system and thus destroy the original advantages the previous products had?
    • Why buy up all these other database alternatives?

      To screw with competitors like Mysql.

      • Don't blame Oracle (since it's their right to buy software); blame the people selling to Oracle.
        • Don't blame Oracle (since it's their right to buy software); blame the people selling to Oracle.

          Huh? That doesn't make any sense. It their right to sell to Oracle also.

          Why not blame open source software developers who depend heavily on products that they can't control. I'm not saying it's always a bad idea to link to BDB, I'm just saying that if your project can be seriously hurt by the actions of another project, you need to have a plan B.
          • Huh? That doesn't make any sense. It their right to sell to Oracle also.

            I'm saying if people are going to get mad at Oracle for buying up MySQL backends, they should get mad at the people selling them.
        • Berkeley DB was, is , and will always be open source. The Cat is out of the bag, and it's not going back in. I say hurray to Sleepy Cat: The open source world has a database and they got an undisclosed bonus for all their work.
      • So fork BDB - that's your right for open source software. :) If this bothers people, that's what will happen. The right to fork is a significant guarantee of long-term availability.
    • Re:Why do this? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jadavis (473492) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @10:03PM (#14721768)
      There are two important decisions that I think are relevent:

      (1) Oracle bought not one, but TWO mysql backends, which happened to be both of their transactional backends.
      (2) MySQL AB licenses the client libraries under the GPL.

      The only conclusion that I can come to from either of those is control.

      MySQL AB needed control over their MySQL database, and so they restricted the distribution of the client libraries. You can argue about what licenses are acceptable for libraries in general, but for a client-server program, it is very strange to restrict the distribution of the client libraries. The decision therefore must have been deliberate, and made for a business reason. That reason is control.

      And Oracle obviously made a business decision. There was question about the motives after buying Innobase, but those questions are now answered when they purchased the only remaining candidate for a transactional storage engine for the MySQL commercial product.

      So here we have Oracle which clearly thinks they have control over MySQL AB, and MySQL AB which clearly thinks they have control over the MySQL database. For that to be false you would have to assume that one of those companies made a serious error in their business decision. So, Oracle now has some substantial degree of control over MySQL database.

      To prevent Oracle from exercising this control, we need to
      (1) fork the MySQL database
      (2) do a cleanroom reverse engineering of the client libraries and make them LGPL/whatever (in order to keep current commercial MySQL users in business)
      (3) fork InnoDB and/or BDB to make sure we have an open source backend that is actively developed.

      By that time, it will all be irrelevant.

      Fortunately, PostgreSQL is immune from these types of licensing problems. The client libraries and the database itself are freely destributable. And the developers work for a wide variety of companies. As far as I know, FirebirdSQL, Inges, and SAP DB are also free of licensing problems. That's 4 good alternatives if Oracle really tries to set MySQL back.
      • Re:Why do this? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IdleTime (561841) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @11:45PM (#14722230) Journal
        Good Luck in writing a transactional backend engine. It's hard work and requires quite a few people with deep knowledge of databases on a very low level and I know since i work in the business. Add to the fact that you have to start from scratch, that you will have to come up with something that has enough performance to be a viable alternative and it needs to be tested thoroughly on all platforms and be wordsize and endian independent.

        Some people talk out of their behind.
    • I think fine tuning would be the main benefit.

      My understanding is that mainframe DB/2 lets you specify the type of storage and indexing to provide over data. PostgreSQL provides some control over that detail. MySQL was pretty much built as a virtual database over real containers. Sybase and Ingres have always allowed a fair bit of control over their indexing and container options. Oracle has some tuning options as well.

      But if a vendor is targetting environments that need fine-tuning to eek every la

  • diversity???? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by slackaddict (950042)
    "Having previously acquired Innobase, Oracle is certainly taking a look at diversity."

    Uhhh... it looks to me like they are purchasing their competition to either insure it isn't developed to the point that it can be a serious threat to their own database product or to quietly change it so much that it's useless and kill the project. Wouldn't be the first time this has happened...

    • Buy good product. Stop selling product.

      Drove me nuts back in my Mac programming days. But at least now developers can fork the open source code, should the creator decide it shouldn't be so open any more.
      • But at least now developers can fork the open source code

        True. However, any successful move of development from one organization to open source coders is usually heavily backed by the organization, at least to get it started. Oracle knows that the organization of the project itself takes a lot of work to nurture, and that anyone who forked development wouldn't really get off the ground for a while, if ever. And time is valuable to Oracle now.
    • BDB doesn't compete with oracle in any way.
      • by Snowhare (263311) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @08:55PM (#14721408) Homepage
        BDB is used as a backend engine in MySQL. It is one of the two best backends - the other being InnoDB. Oddly enough, Oracle bought InnoDB about 3 months ago.

        Sense a pattern?
        • You can certainly argue that mysql competes with oracle. They are both relational SQL database servers. Oracle did not purchase mysql however, they bought sleepycat, who makes BDB, which is in no way a competitor to oracle. It is neither relational, nor SQL, nor even a server. Its a low level database library. It is also BSD licensed, so mysql can go right ahead and keep using it until they end of time, regardless of who buys the company who made it.
      • by jadavis (473492)
        Yes it does, as a potential replacement for InnoDB as a backend for MySQL. When Oracle bought Innobase (makers of InnoDB), all the MySQL people suggested improving the BerkeleyDB backend to make it their primary transaction-supporting backend. Now, looks like that's owned by Oracle to. Maybe it's a coincidence? Or maybe the licensing of MySQL really is a weakness*, and Oracle saw a cheap way to exploit it.

        * MySQL licenses the client libraries as GPL, meaning that any application that has support for MySQL n
      • There you're wrong. We (Openwave) used Oracle in our flagship email system, and swapped out the backend for Sleepycat (on the low end) in order to be able to meet a lower price point. For our application, performance was similar or better on similar hardware, but the maintainence and supporting utilities weren't there.
        • BDB isn't a database server, nor is it relational, nor does it involve SQL in any way. Its a lower level database, it could be used to create a backend for a database server (like mysql uses it for), but does not in any way compete with oracle, which is a relational database server.
          • If one person chooses BDB over Oracle after they've been using Oracle for a while, that's competition. Granted they may be very different types of software, but if both can achieve the same goal in the end they can still compete against each other.
          • by rthille (8526)
            A real company, shipping real and expensive software decided to spend lots of engineering time replacing Oracle with Sleepycat in order to lower the cost to store data in a database, with searching capabilities. Oracle made less money because of this. What would you call that if not competition?
    • diversity would be buying "Dunking Donuts"... this is core business as usual.
    • Uhhh... it looks to me like they are purchasing their competition to either insure it isn't developed to the point that it can be a serious threat to their own database product or to quietly change it so much that it's useless and kill the project. Wouldn't be the first time this has happened...

      I seem to remember reading that their only serious competitor for the high end database market is DB2/IBM with Microsoft offering a low end alternative. As far as I know they haven't bought out IBM or Microsoft yet a
  • It's just like the parable of the mouse and the blind horse - in the end, it all came together from nowhere.
  • Damn. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cosmotron (900510) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @08:44PM (#14721350) Homepage Journal
    What a bad reason to lay off their employees [slashdot.org]. I can't believe that they bought another company [slashdot.org]...
    • The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Perhaps it was a stock deal?

      And even if not, it's not like the money was spent on some party. That money goes to another company, who will use that money to buy labor and/or capital. If an Oracle employee is being a net negative, it's economically more efficient to reallocate those human resources elsewhere. If they are highly qualified, maybe they could go work for google, or someone who could use them more effectively.
  • by rob_squared (821479) <rob AT rob-squared DOT com> on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @08:47PM (#14721367)
    Well, don't walk around their headquarters at night then, you might trip on the damn thing because its sleeping in the middle of the hallway.
  • by hedronist (233240) * on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @08:48PM (#14721372)
    Diversity? It looks more like careening towards homogeneity to me. First they bought Innobase, giving them the ability to cut MySQL's transaction nuts off, then they buy another open-sourece-friendly DBMS which has transaction capability.

    Now, if you were the largest commercial DBMS vendor in the world and you were worried about the OSS people moving into your space, what would you buy in order to stop them cold? Me? I'd keep them out of atomic transaction space.

    Do keep in mind we are talking about Larry Ellison here. Just google on "larry ellison greed" to see what some other people think of this champion of diversity.

  • by jadavis (473492) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @08:52PM (#14721395)
    Oracle now owns two MySQL backend products. First InnoDB, which was their primary transaction-supporting backend, and now BerkeleyDB. Now, in order for MySQL AB to license MySQL database commercially, they need Oracle's permission (that is, if they want basic database features like atomic transactions).

    And if you don't get a commercial license from MySQL AB, you can't link the mysql client library to a non-GPL application. That means, if you have a non-GPL application and you want to add support for MySQL, you are now dependent on Oracle.
    • I really think that using a more generic interface, such as JDBC/ODBC would effectively act as a GPL barrier. Sure, it's not as fast, but it should work. Furthermore, if you built from scratch a library that talked with the mysql server, you could give it a generic license.

      I'm not arguing that Oracle didn't do it with the intention to kill the competitor, just that the consequences aren't as drastic, at least not in the short term.

      • I really think that using a more generic interface, such as JDBC/ODBC would effectively act as a GPL barrier

        True. The difficulty there is that MySQL's version of SQL is substantially different from other dialects. Granted, the standard is not adhered to all that well by anyone. But there are definately a few MySQLisms that would stand out, and limit that argument. I don't know whether it would stand up or not, but it seems like a lawyer could make a reasonable argument that "hey, they're just using this as
        • The question, of course, is what represents derivative work in such a case. IANAL, but something that can be easily identified as a distinct part, running in a different process, etc and doesn't include a single line of code of the original codebase is very unlikely to be considered derived work (GPL has a specific paragraph on that, although it's somewhat vague). Even if the only db it works with is MySql.

          Unfortunately, we don't have a legal precedent for this. Regardless, it's very similar to what nVidi

    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @10:19PM (#14721835) Homepage Journal
      Call me crazy, but isn't it trivial to write your own client lib? I mean, looking at the source code here, it appears to just be a wrapper that opens a socket (tcp or unix), writes your plain text SQL request to it and reads back the response. I can remember someone asking me to add mySQL support to an app about 6 years ago and I didn't even use the client lib cause I didn't think anyone would need a library for something that simple.
  • by jonsmirl (114798) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @08:53PM (#14721398) Homepage
    The price of these acquisitions is chump change for Oracle. My bet is that they are buying these companies to destroy them. Oracle does not want something like Mysql becoming a real threat to their DB business, so the tried and true solution is to kill the babies before they grow up. They will attempt to migrate what customers they can and then stop development on the acquired code bases. The acquired developers, if they stick around, will be put to work building migration tools.
  • by Andy Tai (1884) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @09:00PM (#14721437) Homepage
    Oracle may have screwed up the ability of MySQL to license the proprietary version of their database and may even killed MySQL's primary revenue stream, but they cannot remove MySQL, Berkeley DB or innobase from the market. Maybe MySQL will adapt, or someone will pick up the MySQL business, but the Free databases will continue to gain on Oracle. Oracle's nightmare cannot go away.
    • They can't kill off the GPLed MySQL, but they can kill off the **commercial version** by purchasing the backend products and then reducing or eliminating their development. This means that a company or third party vendor that wanted to develop an app using MySQL would not be able to use the commercial version of MySQL in an effective way (since they would now be tied to Oracle, and Oracle's development whims of development for the MySQL backend products like InnoDB and BDB), and they also cannot use the GP
  • by TheBracket (307388) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @09:09PM (#14721495) Homepage
    I wonder how this will affect other projects using the BDB back-end (for example, OpenLDAP and Subversion). I imagine Oracle can't pull the source for already open versions, and it might be possible for a free fork to emerge if it is needed - but it could put a cloud over those projects while they arrange alternative back-ends.
    • Subversion was moving away from BDB in favor of fsfs anyway. The fact of the matter, though, is that BDB has all the features OpenLDAP and Subversion need... so even if SleepyCat doesn't release any more updates it doesn't really mean much to the individual projects. They can fork BDB and life will move on.
  • by cyberjessy (444290) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @09:14PM (#14721524) Homepage
    This could become one of the biggest challenges for Open Source in the years to come. The biggies could but these companies (often run by a handful of good men) for a small sum; and then change the way they function. Of course the old source will still be available, but the guys who know the intricacies will no longer be working on it. Bug fixes might be late, new features may never come. Many of the old users will leave, some stay hoping for the best. All the roadmaps vanish. Until someone picks up the ashes and starts again. Rebirth.

    I am not sure how fair it will be to ask any company/people to not take a multi-MILLION dollar offer, so that they would remain FREE.

    You can mod this funny, 'cause after I finished writing it feels like a para from MadMax.
  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @09:19PM (#14721550) Homepage Journal
    I get the impression that Oracle is just doing this to screw with MySQL. As many know, MySQL gives you a choice of back end data stores. You can go with MAX (now owned by Oracle), or you can go with Berkeley DB (now owned by Oracle).

    As the developer of an application [citadel.org] that uses Berkeley DB for all of its data stores, I am more than a little concerned about this. Does Oracle see any actual value in Sleepycat, or are they just doing this to shut them down?
    • Hi Mr Foobar - maybe it is time to save a copy of the BDB source code, so you can fork it if needed. As is, BDB has all the features Citadel needs, so it doesn't matter if your fork stagnates.
    • It's perhaps more of a reason to use a database server like MySQL which has lots of storage engines and can develop or integrate more as necessary to deal with such business changes. No reason to write to only MySQL either.
    • by asifyoucare (302582) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @11:04PM (#14722059)
      I get the impression that Oracle is just doing this to screw with MySQL

      Indeed, and the reason they're doing that is that SAP is partnering with MySQL (and SAP is doing that to avoid giving Oracle income from a DB sale with every SAP installation (and the reason SAP's doing that is that they are in a death-match with Oracle for the ERP crown)).

      SAP made a mistake in not doing what Oracle is now doing, before their MySQL announcement.

      Anyway, MySQL seemed like an odd choice to me at the time. Surely Postgresql would be a better fit. Perhaps SAP were only envisaging MySQL at the very low end.

      Watch for an announcement by SAP that they've bought or are partnering with another fringe DB player. My money's on Interbase.

  • by LLuthor (909583) <lexington.luthor@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @09:19PM (#14721553)
    This seems like it fits with their other purchases if their strategy is to kill of the commercial incarnation of MySQL. First the InnoDB purchase threatened MySQL's commercial business being the primary transaction based backend, and now BDB too is threatened.

    Can MySQL license the code (and any patents covering it) to continue commercial MySQL sales/support?
  • Raw Power (Score:3, Funny)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @09:23PM (#14721579)
    Embrace
    Extinguish
    ????
    Profit!!!

  • PotgreSQL... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by curious.corn (167387) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @09:41PM (#14721676)
    ... dodge this. Really folks, except for the nifty LAMP acronym what is it that keeps MySQL afloat? There's no reason not to go with PostgreSQL, a neat, cool and scary DBMS. If only those phpBB look alike script packs didn't insist hardcoding MySQL dialects in their code this would be a non story, it's that simple. It's like insisting on using VB just because everyone else does... and PostgreSQL documentation is good, so there's no "I can't figure it out" excuse.
    • Re:PostgreSQL... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kbob88 (951258)
      I completely agree: PostgreSQL should now be *the* open-source database of choice.

      I used to use MySQL extensively. Then six months ago, a new client required that we use Postgres. What an eye-opener! Honestly, I'm *never* going back to MySQL. I can't believe I wasted all that time trying to get MySQL work properly, configured right, rewriting SQL to work-around holes in their implementation...

      PostgreSQL is fast, stable, and full-featured. It also has a good *open-source* front-end GUI client, pgAdmin. Our p
  • Should I grab a copy of it while it's still free for personal use in case I want it later?

    I can't imagine it's in Oracle's ineterest for me to be able to grab a quality database which will do what I need it to do for free.

    I've always liked the Berkeley Database stuff, since the key/value sets it uses can be used in cases where a traditional RDB doesn't always apply.

    Sad to hear SleeyCat is going away. They have some cool stuff.
    • Sad to hear SleeyCat is going away. They have some cool stuff.

      There's always hope that Sleepycat folk will pull a Justin Frankel and be a pain in the ass. :)
  • The other day, I wrote about Oracle becoming too powerful [baheyeldin.com] and that now MySQL AB is totally screwed up.

    MySQL AB should have first seen that Inno is crucial to them, and bought them out.

    Having failed to do that, BDB was the engine left after Oracle gobbled up Inno, and MySQL AB should have bought them out.

    Now MySQL AB will get choked ...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm pleased to announce today that Sleepycat Software has been acquired by
    Oracle.

    By joining the leading database company in the world, I expect that we
    will be able to serve our customers and the open source community better.
    With the additional expertise, resources and reach of Oracle, we'll be
    able to accelerate innovation, offer you greater choice, and provide more
    complete solutions. For Oracle, we fill a gap in the product portfolio
    for high performance embedded/edge databases, an area which we believe is
    a
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think Oracles recent acquisitions shows how semi-open commercial OSS can be a less reliable platform to develop on than truly OSS which isn't owned by any single entity.

    Sure the MySQL engines are open source and you can always fork it if they change the license, but forking such massive projects is unrealistic, and Oracle knows this.

    The project I'm currently planning is going to use PostgreSQL, instead of MySQL as usual; Oracle can't buy it because it's not owned by a single company. No matter how much Or
  • Their business plan seems pretty obvious. But just in case I will state it in the usual slashdot fashion:

    1. buy out all competitors
    2. charge high prices
    3. profit

    The same method has been used with some success by other companies (such as legal data providers, for example). But I am not sure it will work here. I mean on one hand they are eliminating competitors, but on the other, they are sending a clear message to developers, that if you want millions of dollars all you have to do is write a commercial grade
  • Sleepycat responds (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chairman (86804) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @12:43AM (#14722421)
    I'm Mike Olson, Sleepycat's (now former!) CEO. I've taken a job as VP at Oracle working on embedded databases. Our entire team has come along.

    I've posted a summary of this announcement on the Sleepycat blog, at http://blog.sleepycat.com/2006/02/next-ten-years.h tml [sleepycat.com]. I understand that a big vendor making a series of acquisitions in open source causes concern, but I'm convinced that the plan is as outlined in my posting. We're all showing up for work every day and working on the same embeddable database technology as ever. We're continuing to close deals with new customers and to support old ones. We continue to work closely with open source users.

    There's lots of speculation that this move is intended to damage MySQL. I frankly don't see it; MySQL doesn't depend on Berkeley DB. It never did. We've always had a close and cordial relationship with those guys, but both businesses have always concentrated on our own customers and markets. We may have wished, sometimes, that we collaborated more closely, but we never did.

    We've been good members of the open source community for a long, long time. We're pleased our software is so broadly used, and we're proud of the projects that rely on it. While I understand the concern, here, I'd ask that you watch what we do. I'm confident in the future of our products and of open source. Give us time to show you what Oracle and Sleepycat can do together.
    • by hypersql (954649) on Wednesday February 15, 2006 @04:20AM (#14723023)
      I don't agree MySQL does not depend on Berkeley DB. Without it, and without InnoDB, MySQL needs an alternative. In any case it's bad for MySQL, because some customers are probably already scared.

      I think what Oracle will do is change the work priorities inside Sleepycat. Development and support related to MySQL will be stopped completely. Developers will be re-assigned to do things like 'compatibility', 'migration' and so on. Future version of Sleepycat will just not work with MySQL any more. Probably the license agreement will change. Not sure if the code will be forked, but if the main developers of the codebase are gone (no longer working on it), the code becomes a legacy.

      Something very similar happened to me in 2001. I am the original author of Hypersonic SQL (a Java database engine). PointBase, who also developed a Java SQL database, asked me if I want to work for them, I said yes. We agreed I will continue to work on Hypersonic SQL. But this suddenly changed about half a year later, and they made me to work on something else (PointBase Micro, PointBase UniSync). So they 'bought' me (well, I only got shares, which are now worthless). And then tried to kill the competitor. They told me to stop the Hypersonic SQL project. But it was forked (HSQLDB). I left PointBase in 2003, and now I'm working on a new Java database: H2 (http://www.h2database.com/ [h2database.com]).

      MySQL will probably start developing their own transactional backend. They have now enough money to do that. They should do that, probably they already started (I was asked to work for them, but obviously I said no because of H2). My guess is MySQL will start a branch in the Bay Area, and hire some good developers there. There are quite a lot good database developers in this region.

      Thomas Mueller, former author of Hypersonic SQL

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